Prime Minister Narendra Modi had vowed from the banks of the mighty River Ganga, “It’s my destiny to serve Maa Ganga,” when he was elected in May 2014. But after five years Goddess Ganga may not be too impressed. The Government’s target to clean the holy river by 2020 is far from being met.
To translate Modi’s vision, the Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister gave its approval for the River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection and Management) Authorities Order, 2016. The Order laid down a new institutional structure for rejuvenation work in a fast track manner. It created a National Council for River Ganga as an authority under the chairmanship of Prime Minister, for overall responsibility of pollution prevention and rejuvenation of the River Ganga basin.
“Such a move seemed a promising step forward to address one of India’s most significant and emotive pollution crises. After three years, however, it is being reported that the National Ganga Council has not met even once”
Such a move seemed a promising step forward to address one of India’s most significant and emotive pollution crises. After three years, however, it is being reported that the National Ganga Council (NGC) has not met even once. This is according to a report published in The Wire, which discovered the NGC’s idleness after filing a right to information (RTI) query. According to recommendations, the Council was expected to meet at least once a year.
The NGC was formulated after the NDA government dissolved the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) formed under the UPA government in 2009. The authority had met thrice under the chairmanship of then-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Under the NDA government, Uma Bharti – currently Cabinet Minister for Drinking Water and Sanitation – presided over two meetings of the NGRBA and Modi chaired one. Since the NGC was formed no meeting was held.
The National Mission for Clean Ganga – an integrated Ganga conservation mission called Namami Gange – was also expected to work under the guidelines issued by the NGC. Given that the NGC has not convened a single meeting since it was formed, can it now be assumed that no strategy was designed and no guidelines were issued for any new implementation?
It must also be asked if the government was only indulging in grandstanding when it committed itself to saving Ganga? And considering the pretentious political narrative formulated surrounding the relevance of Ganga, shouldn’t the government have delivered on its promise?
“Modi’s much-celebrated Namami Gange programme has only been a platform for hyperbole and no concrete action”
After four years, Modi’s much-celebrated Namami Gange programme has only been a platform for hyperbole and no concrete action. A close look at the project’s monthly report (until 31st Jan, 2019) on the NMCG website shows, out of Rs 26,356 crore sanctioned for the project, only Rs 6086 crore has been spent to date.
Total Money Sanctioned (in Cr.)
Rs 26356.44 cr.
No of Projects Under Progress
No of Projects Under Tendering
Total Expenditure (in Cr.)
(Entire report can be accessed here)
“The cleaning of the Ganga requires seamless coordination between the agencies responsible for carrying out different tasks…[calling] for vision a clear-cut governance strategy. If the top-notch decision-making body fails to brainstorm, won’t the results be anything but positive?”
The cleaning of the Ganga requires seamless coordination between the agencies responsible for carrying out different tasks. This calls for vision and a clear-cut governance strategy. If the top-notch decision-making body fails to brainstorm, won’t the results be anything but positive?
Any indication of cooperation seems largely symbolic in nature. As an example, the Ministry of Water Resources has signed memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with ten ministries for improved implementation of the Namami Gange programme. However, to date, no detail is available as to how these ministries are functioning for better convergence.
This ground reality is in stark contrast to the statements made by the government. In November 2018, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari had promised that eighty percent of Ganga will be cleant before the Kumbh Mela in 2019, even as experts were debating whether they would meet the 2020 target. Was the minister completely unaware of the slow progress of the projects or misleading the people with ‘fake’ statements?
“There has been all round pressure from courts and activists, but the government’s commitment is questionable”
Health Issues India highlighted the dismal state of affairs in July last year, when the National Green Tribunal had called the holy river’s water injurious to health. There has been all round pressure from courts and activists, but the government’s commitment is questionable.
A year earlier, in 2017, the Comptroller Auditor General reprimanded the government for its lacklustre attitude over cleaning the Ganga. In its report the CAG highlighted the delay in river cleaning, installation of sewage treatment plants and construction of toilets in houses. The report said, “The National Mission for Clean Ganga neither circulated Ganga Rejuvenation Basin Management Programme (GRBMP) to different ministries/departments for consultation and seeking their opinion, nor finalised the GRBMP for initiating the long-term intervention on the Ganga.”
Rajesh Singh, a member of the disbanded NGBRA told The Wire, “When we were in the NGBRA, our voice was always heard. If there were any problems, then the Prime Minister would call us and talk to us. But the Prime Minister of the day does not think it necessary to talk to experts. Now, nobody is consulting the people who speak genuinely for the Ganga. Thousands of rupees were distributed in the name of the Ganga, but the required work was not done.”