Government wants to clean Ganga by March 2019
The National Ganga Council (NGC), which is headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has never met since it was constituted in October 2016. The NGC was formed to prevent, protect and control pollution in River Ganga.
The Gazette Notification by the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation (MoWR, RD & GR), issued on October 7, 2016 read: “The National Ganga Council shall meet at least once every year or more as it may deem necessary.” As per the same notification, the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA), which was also headed by an incumbent Prime Minister, stood dissolved with the NGC coming into existence. Hence, NGC is supposed to discharge the responsibilities that NGRBA had.
The NGRBA was formed in 2009 after the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) came to power. Its first meeting was held on December 7, 2009 under the chairmanship of the then prime minister Manmohan Singh. All the five meetings of NGRBA—held in 2009, 2010 and 2012—were chaired by Singh. The NGRBA meetings, which happened in 2014 and 2015, were chaired by Uma Bharti, the then Union minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.
The lone NGRBA meeting chaired by PM Modi took place on July 4, 2016. After that, NGC was formed. A senior official in the ministry confirmed to DTE that not a single meeting of NGC has taken place since then. Phone calls made to the office of the director general of National Mission for Clean Ganga failed to elicit any response.
Almost along the lines of NGRBA, the October gazette notification envisaged Prime Minister as the ex-officio chairman of the Council and Union Minister for MoWR, RD & GR as the vice-chairman. Chief Ministers of Ganga Basin states—Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal—would be its members just like they were in NGRBA. Besides, union ministers of Finance, Urban Development, Power, Science & Technology, Rural Development, Drinking Water and Sanitation, and Shipping would be its members. Also, the minister of state for tourism and vice-chairman of NITI Aayog were supposed to be its members along with MoWR, RD and GR secretary and director general of National Mission for Clean Ganga.
The NGRBA had several technical experts, and the National Ganga Council also expected to have experts on board.
Besides National Ganga Council, the gazette notification also envisaged formation of an Empowered Task Force on River Ganga headed by the Union Minister of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation and comprising the minister of state of MoWR, RD & GR as vice-chairman and secretaries of finance and MoWR, RD & GR ministries. It was supposed to have met once every three months or more for coordinating among different ministries, which were tasked with specific objectives under Namami Gange.
On the website of National Mission for Clean Ganga, the minutes of meetings of none of the other bodies like NGC and Empowered Task Force are available.
A governing council of National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG)—consisting of a Director General, joint secretaries of three union ministries, and principal secretaries of urban development departments of Ganga Basin states—also came into existence. Out of this governing council, an executive committee was constituted. It is headed by a director general and comprises five executive directors. The minutes of meetings of only executive committee of the governing council, which happened from 2016, are available on the official website of National Mission for Clean Ganga.
Incidentally, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) audit report on NMCG, released in December 2017, slammed the government for not performing up to the mark. The report highlighted delay and non-implementation of project related to cleaning of the river, installation of sewage treatment plants, and construction of toilets in households.
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