Ganga May Still Be Dirty, But the Modi Govt Spent Crores Advertising Its Cleaning

As the 2019 elections neared, spending on advertisements increased.

How clean the Ganga is – or isn’t – is for the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and the Pollution Control Board (PCB) to decide. But whatever the case may be, there’s one thing that won’t stop shining – and that’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s face.

Once again, ‘Ma Ganga’, as Modi calls it, has been reduced to an election ploy for seeking votes – a fact evident from the documents obtained from the Ministry of Water Resources on December 6, 2018 in response to an RTI application.

The RTI query was filed seeking information on the expenditure on advertisements published in the print as well as electronic media on behalf of the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) between the financial years 2014-15 and 2018-19. According to the reply, a total of Rs 36.47 crore have been spent on advertisements in this period, until November 30, 2018.

While the total expenditure was merely Rs 2.04 crore during 2014-15, it gradually increased with each year – and as elections approached, the figure crossed the Rs 10 crore mark.

The expenditure was Rs 3.34 crore in 2015-16, Rs 6.79 crore in 2016-17 and Rs 11.07 crore in 2017-18, and then increased to Rs 13.23 crore in the next year, until November 30, 2018. Without a doubt, Modi’s face features in nearly all the advertisements.

For instance, an advertisement was published in all the widely circulated newspapers of the country on October 14, 2017 stating that the prime minister is to lay the foundation stone of a sewage treatment plant (STP) and sewerage network at Beur, an STP at Karmalichak, and an STP and sewerage network at Saidpur.

It is interesting to note that funds for the Beur STP (43 MLD) project had been allocated on July 15, 2014, and the rest of the projects had also been sanctioned in 2014. Yet the foundation stones were not laid till October 14, 2017. Why was this so?

Why did the projects have to wait for three years to be inaugurated? Was the BJP waiting for the coalition government in Bihar to collapse, and Nitish Kumar to join hands with it?

Watch | Sewage Flows Directly into Ganga in Kanpur

Whatever the reason may be, it is plain to see how serious the government is regarding the cleaning of the Ganga, despite having the required budget as well as allocated projects.

If you analyse these advertisements from the point of view of an informed reader and citizen, you will find that lakhs of rupees were released for advertising even the most minor works related to Ganga cleaning.

It is but natural for any government to promote the work it is doing. But in case of an important issue like the cleaning of Ganga, the government’s intention and policies have been rendered questionable because no concrete initiative has been undertaken. It has become nothing more than a publicity gimmick.

For instance, 113 real-time bio-monitoring systems have still not been installed and there is no nationwide policy on drainage (without which the complete success of the STP system is doubtful). This only shows that the government is not at all serious about the cleaning and rejuvenation of the Ganga.

Politics on the Ganga

A response was sought from the Ministry of Water Resources under the RTI regarding the number of STPs installed after August 13, 2016, the cities in which a drainage network has been planned and their current status, as well as the status of the ten promised Smart Ganga Cities.

A reply from the water ministry was received on October 10, 2018 stating that 236 projects have been sanctioned under the Namami Gange programme till date. This includes sewage treatment in cities, industrial waste treatment, cleaning of the river bed, rural sanitation, afforestation, biodiversity, awareness programmes, etc. Of these, 63 projects had been completed while work is still in progress on the remaining.

Also read | More Than 80% of the Clean Ganga Fund Has Not Yet Been Spent

Besides this, 114 sewerage infrastructure and STP projects were allocated till October 10, 2018, of which 27 were completed.

The ministry’s response is so complex that unless a physical verification is carried out, the reality cannot be discerned.

On August 13, 2016, then water minister Uma Bharti had announced ten Smart Ganga Cities in Ujjain – Haridwar, Hrishikesh, Mathura-Vrindavan, Varanasi, Kanpur, Allahabad, Lucknow, Patna, Sahibganj and Bairakpur. If any of these cities has become a Smart Ganga City during the past 2.5 years, the reader must take a trip.

Also read | Water Ministry’s Task Force on Ganga Is Not Having the Meeting It’s Supposed To

At any rate, Ma Ganga has always had ‘sons’ making plans for it. There were those who made the Ganga Action Plan, then there came those who made the Namami Gange Plan. But the ‘mother’ never loses hope in her sons, and never gets angry with them no matter how they disappoint her. As the saying goes in Sanskrit, “A son can be an evil son, but a mother is never a bad mother.” 

This article is an excerpt from the book Vada Faramoshi which evaluates the Modi government’s major schemes, published with special permission. Based on information received through RTIs, this book is written by Sanjoy Basu, Neeraj Kumar and Shashi Shekhar.

Translated from the Hindi original by Naushin Rehman.