New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will cruise through the Ganga river in Kanpur Saturday to get a first-hand experience of the impact of his government’s flagship Namami Gange project on the river.
The scheme, launched in 2014 under the Ministry of Water Resources, aims at “effective abatement of pollution, conservation and rejuvenation” of the Ganga.
Before the cruise, the PM will chair the first meeting of National Ganga Council, ever since it was formed in 2015. Twelve union ministers and nine secretaries of different departments will attend the meeting.
Chief ministers of five states — Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal — from where Ganga flows have been invited to attend the meeting and take part in the cruise.
While UP’s Yogi Adityanath, Uttarakhand’s Trivendra Singh Rawat and Bihar’s Nitish Kumar have confirmed that they will attend the event, Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee and Jharkhand’s Raghubar Das are unlikely to turn up.
While Das could be busy because of the assembly elections under way in Jharkhand, Banerjee has not yet confirmed if she would attend the programme.
BJP sources said a double-deck steamer has been brought from Varanasi to take PM and the chief ministers for the cruise.
‘Kanpur stretch is the most polluted’
Talking about the PM’s Ganga cruise, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, the nodal minister of Namami Gange, told ThePrint the reason behind choosing Kanpur was because it was the “most polluted stretch on the entire Ganga route”.
“The government wants to send the message that it is making an effort to clean the Ganga,” he added.
Shekhawat said the government has changed its approach towards the project and will now go for performance-based assistance for state governments.
“The government will provide funds to the (five) states for 15 years for the project based on their performance. Earlier, states used to complain about the scarcity of funds, but this has now been taken care of. We will present a blueprint (of the project) at the meeting and will ask the states to spell out their needs and requirements to implement the project,” added the minister, who will also attend the event Saturday.
Modi govt eyeing ‘another feather in the cap’
BJP sources said the government is keen on expediting the Namami Gange project, especially after the Ayodhya verdict, as it will add another feather in the party’s cap.
“If Ganga is cleaned, imagine how our core voters will react. This will be another feather in Modi government’s cap,” said a source.
In 2014, the government had allocated Rs 22,000 crore for the project until 2020. From 2011 to 2019, the government has spent Rs 12,000 crore to clean the river.
According to government data, the river is still getting polluted with wastes being released into it every day from 144 drains in the five states.