Namami Gange, Aviral Dhara, Nirmal Dhara and Swachchha Kinara (Obeisance to the Ganges, Continuing Stream, Clean Stream, and Clean Banks) are only a few of the attractive slogans that have been in use for last five years. Such slogans highlight the ability of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to use enticing words capable of hiding the horrible reality of the situation. Though the huge gap between his words and deeds is sufficient to expose his dichotomy, people do not perceive it as his failure. Namami Gange programme is a case in point. Ganga remains unclean, and the Yamuna which is part of Namami Gange is worst polluted in Delhi under his nose. He cannot blame people for that because the Yamuna is polluted at his seat of power due to untreated industrial and municipal waste.
The responsibility of the establishment of a robust network of wastewater treatment plants and running it effectively is the primary responsibility of the government. And if industrial houses and municipal bodies are acting against law regarding pollution control, the government must not allow it to happen. The element of corruption and dereliction of duties are obvious. Five years of Modi rule have been passed and the horrible level of pollution remains horrible. No punishment to culprits, no effective wastewater treatment mechanism in place.
The result has been summarised by an official committee report - “Although the Yamuna river flows only for 54 kilometres from Palla to Badarpur through Delhi, the 22-km stretch from Wazirabad to Okhla, which is less than 2 per cent of the river length of 1370 kilometres from Yamunotri to Prayagraj, accounts for about 76 per cent of the pollution level in the river”. This 2 per cent stretch from Wazirabad to Okhla sees the maximum discharge of untreated industrial and domestic wastes.
How helpless is the Modi government can be understood by the statement given by the Union Minister of the newly created Ministry of Jal Shakti who lamented ‘22 kilometres of Yamuna stretch in Delhi contains more than 90 per cent of pollution load and we are sounding helpless to clean the same’. He was participating in a Cleanathon event of “Namami Gange” at the Kalindi Kunj Ghat near Okhla Barrage. Despite this horrible fact, he did not refrain himself from big talks like our Prime Minister. He said that under his (Modi’s) leadership the cleaning of river Ganga and its tributaries would be taken up in a mission mode. It would be pertinent to ask as to which mode the cleaning of rivers has been going on for the last five years under his rule? Give the track record of the government no one can believe his statement that flow of raw sewage into the river Ganga would be completely stopped by 2022 and the government is working on a Mission Mode to achieve this target, since we have only three years left to do that, and the last five years have been lost mainly in the ritualistic worship of Ganga and some beautification with merely cosmetic works without any robust and effective mechanism to reduce water pollution.
Addressing a National Conference-cum-Exhibition and Awards- “Innovative Water Solutions” in Delhi, the Minister promised to make Ganga fit for holy rituals by this December. He is absolutely right in saying that everybody from common people to corporates have to come on board to achieve this (cleaning river) mission, as India can’t afford the duality of the scarcity of safe drinking water on one hand and wastage of 25 odd litres of water in a shower bath. However, he must share the blame because it is not the common people who are wasting water in their showers, but the people like him, the rich and privileged including ministers, are. He also said he was ready to sit with the corporates to chalk out a viable strategy for industrial use of water and discharge of untreated industrial waste into the rivers. But the question is why is his government allowing the discharge of untreated industrial waste into the rivers for the last five years?
It could have easily been done because the Yamuna, after originating from Yamunotri, flows through the states – Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi and finally Uttar Pradesh before merging into the Ganga at Prayagraj, the holiest of the confluence for the Hindus - where the BJP is in the helm of affair. Delhi, as Union Territory, is also under Centre’s control. The irony is that the UP government changed the name of Allahabad to Prayagraj, and Modi participated in the Ganga Arti in Varanasi, but none of them came forward to put any robust mechanism to clean neither the Yamuna nor Ganga.
The Union Minister was also right in saying that India’s population contriburtes about 18 per cent of the world population and an equal percentage in livestock, but its share of water is less than 4 per cent and that too is mostly contaminated. He said that everyone should introspect why India ranks 122nd in the world, in terms of contamination. We must appreciate his suggestion - ‘everyone should introspect’, but ‘everyone’ does not exclude the Minister of Jalshakti or the Prime Minister, who has been talking too much on Namami Gange, but doing a little to curb the contamination. The introspection must begin from the top because it is beyond the capacity of a common man to install industrial waste or sewage treatment plants. Had the strong and dominating leader like Modi really wanted to do that who could have prevented him from doing so!
As for Ganga, the holiest river for the Hindus, the river also originates from and flows through the states, where the BJP is in power before she enters West Bengal. As soon as she comes down from the Himalayas, it gets polluted. In Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, it is most polluted primarily due to the discharge of untreated water from the Industries and Municipal waste and sewage water. The ritualistic worships, wherein even the chief ministers and the Prime Minister participate, may hide their faults and dismal performance in preventing the contamination up to horrific levels, but cannot clean its water. It can be done only by enforcing the Industries and the Municipal bodies not to discharge untreated waste and sewerage into the river. We have already spent billions of rupees in Ganga and Yamuna Action Plans during pre-Modi rule before 2014 and in Namami Gange after that but failed in cleaning these rivers. Is it not a case of introspection for the ruling establishment?
The writer is a freelance journalist. Views are personal.