Friday November 16, 2018

Mathura: Ripe destination for domestic tourists

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source: indiatourismpoint.com
source: indiatourismpoint.com

By NewsGram Staff Writer

Mathura:  Mathura district has evolved from a major pilgrimage centre for the Hindus to a major tourism hub for visitors from within the country.

Around 10 crore people annually visit the holy places connected with Lord Krishna and his beloved Radha — mostly for circling the holy Goverdhan hill that the Lord Vishnu incarnate lifted on his little finger.

With a string of festivals taking place round the year, there are no seasonal ups and downs here, as the district is fast evolving as a favourite getaway for busy urbanites from the national capital, who wish to mix pleasure with religion.

In recent years, the Braj circuit that also includes Agra, has become very popular. Weekend tourism has picked up and visitors are combining pilgrimage with pleasure. Mathura’s profile is all set to further change as it has been listed as a heritage city for development.

“No other district in India attracts so many visitors — call them pilgrims or tourists — as Mathura district does. The pressure never ends. It is the favourite getaway point for people from Haryana, Punjab and Delhi who drive in through the Yamuna Expressway over the weekends or on festivals,” says restaurant owner Mahesh Kumar.

The ghats of the Yamuna river in Mathura and Vrindavan — where the evening ‘aartis‘ have become a major attraction for the pilgrims, the Mathura museum, the Birla Mandir, dozens of ashrams in Vrindavan, the temple of Bihari-ji, Rangji temple, the renovated Brahm Kund, the newly- constructed Prem Mandir and the ISKCON temple are among those figuring high on the list for tourists.

Vrindavan, with over 2,500 small and big temples, and scores of sprawling ashrams of the old and new-age gurus, is now just 90-minute drive from Noida via the Yamuna Expressway.

For the vegetarians, Mathura and Vrindavan provide a wide choice of foods and sweets made of milk. “No visitor forgets to buy the famous Mathura peda,” says Mangal Shukla, a panda in Vrindavan.

The transformation of the district into a major tourist hub has been facilitated by the state government, which is executing a dozen-odd infrastructural projects in the district to provide better and efficient connectivity, parking slots, shelter homes and a ‘haat’ for local products that include dresses for deities, garlands of diverse range, brass statues, hindolas and ritualistic paraphernalia. The silver industry of Mathura has emerged as a major revenue generator for the district.

“The Mathura Vrindavan Development Authority has taken up many projects for providing facilities to domestic tourists. Mathura parliamentarian Hema Malini wants to exploit the tourism potential of the district for economic development.

“She has adopted Radha’s birthplace Raval for development. Better road connectivity has helped increase tourist inflow to Gokul, Mahavan, Goverdhan, Barsana and Nandgaon,” say members of the Braj Bachao Samiti in Mathura.

Work on a ropeway to connect the Radha temple on the hill in Barsana has begun along with widening of the road from the Yamuna Expressway to Vrindavan. Even the road to Goverdhan is being beautified and the 21-km ‘parikrama marg‘ has been streamlined.

“In Goverdhan, a number of hotels have come up while Vrindavan too boasts of quality hotels. The hotel industry in Mathura is upbeat as business has picked up in recent years. A large number of political conventions are now regularly held in Vrindavan, which has brought the area on the tourism map,” says guest-house owner Rakesh Sharma.

Earlier, only the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh held its conferences in Vrindavan, but now the Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Choudhary Ajit Singh and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi too have been attracted by the charm of Vrindavan.

(With inputs from IANS)

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Google Proposes Its First Urban Development Project

The current agreement leaves ownership of data issues for later shows that it wasn't properly drafted and means patents derived from the data will default to Google.

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A Google logo is displayed at the entrance to the internet based company's offices in Toronto. VOA

Heated streets will melt ice and snow on contact. Sensors will monitor traffic and protect pedestrians. Driverless shuttles will carry people to their doors.

A unit of Google’s parent company Alphabet is proposing to turn a rundown part of Toronto’s waterfront into what may be the most wired community in history — to “fundamentally refine what urban life can be.”

Sidewalk Labs has partnered with a government agency known as Waterfront Toronto with plans to erect mid-rise apartments, offices, shops and a school on a 12-acre (4.9-hectare) site — a first step toward what it hopes will eventually be a 800-acre (325-hectare) development.

High-level interest is clear: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alphabet’s then-Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt appeared together to announce the plan in October.

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A Google logo is seen at the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, VOA

But some Canadians are rethinking the privacy implications of giving one of the most data-hungry companies on the planet the means to wire up everything from street lights to pavement. And some want the public to get a cut of the revenue from products developed using Canada’s largest city as an urban laboratory.

“The Waterfront Toronto executives and board are too dumb to realize they are getting played,” said former BlackBerry chief executive Jim Balsillie, a smartphone pioneer considered a national hero.

Complaints about the proposed development prompted Waterfront Toronto to re-do the agreement to ensure a greater role for the official agency, which represents city, provincial and federal governments.

So far the project is still in the embryonic stage. After consultations, the developers plan to present a formal master plan early next year.

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Trump Also Expands Google Criticism to Include Facebook, Twitter. VOA

Dan Doctoroff, the CEO of Sidewalk Labs, envisions features like pavement that lights up to warn pedestrians of approaching streetcars. Flexible heated enclosures — described as “raincoats” for buildings — will be deployed based on weather data during Toronto’s bitter winters. Robotic waste-sorting systems will detect when a garbage bin is full and remove it before raccoons descend.

“Those are great uses of data that can improve the quality of life of people,” he said. “That’s what we want to do.”

Sidewalk Labs promotional materials promise “a place that’s enhanced by digital technology and data, without giving up the privacy and security that everyone deserves.”

Doctoroff said the company isn’t looking to monetize people’s personal information in the way that Google does now with search information. He said the plan is to invent so-far-undefined products and services that Sidewalk Labs can market elsewhere.

“People automatically assume because of our relationship to Alphabet and Google that they will be treated one way or another. We have never said anything” about the data issue, he said. “To be honest people should give us some time. Be patient.”

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Google has collaborated with Getty images. Wikimedia Commons

But that wasn’t good enough for Julie Di Lorenzo, a prominent Toronto developer who resigned from the Waterfront Toronto board over the project. Di Lorenzo said data and what Google wants to do with it should be front and center in the discussions. She also believes the government agency has given the Google affiliate too much power over how the project develops.

“How can [Waterfront Toronto], a corporation established by three levels of democratically elected government, have shared values with a limited, for-profit company whose premise is embedded data collection?” Di Lorenzo asked.

Di Lorenzo asks who will own the autonomous vehicles. “Is the municipality maintaining the fleet or forcing you to share your vehicle?” She also asks if people who don’t want their data collected will be allowed to live there.

The concerns have intensified following a series of privacy scandals at Facebook and Google. A recent Associated Press investigation found that many Google services on iPhones and Android devices store location-tracking data even if you use privacy settings that are supposed to turn them off.

Google
The Alexa Echo Dot devices include the official Saint Louis University logo and are equipped with specific skills to provide information on local events and campus life. VOA

“It gives all of us pause,” Waterfront board chair Helen Burstyn acknowledged.

Bianca Wylie, an advocate of open government, said it remains deeply troubling that Sidewalk Labs still hasn’t said who will own data produced by the project or how it will be monetized. Google is here to make money, she said, and Canadians should benefit from any data or products developed from it.

“We are not here to be someone’s research and development lab,” she said, “to be a loss leader for products they want to sell globally.”

Ottawa patent lawyer Natalie Raffoul said the fact that the current agreement leaves ownership of data issues for later shows that it wasn’t properly drafted and means patents derived from the data will default to Google.

“We just can’t be too trusting of corporations,” she said.

Capitol hill, google
An empty chair reserved for Google’s parent Alphabet, which refused to send its top executive, is seen as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg accompanied by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on ‘Foreign Influence Operations and Their Use of Social Media Platforms’ on Capitol Hill. VOA

But Burstyn, the Waterfront Toronto chair, said the upcoming master plan will address data concerns. The agency wants to make Toronto a global hub of a rising new industry, she said.

“Everybody gets worried about the digital and technology aspects that might run amok,” she said. “I don’t worry about that as much as I see the opportunities for developing a really interesting, innovative community.”

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Adam Vaughan, the federal lawmaker whose district includes the development, said debate about big data and urban infrastructure is coming to cities across the world and he would rather have Toronto at the forefront of discussion.

“Google is ahead of governments globally and locally. That’s a cause for concern but it’s also an opportunity,” Vaughan said. (VOA)