By Tanuj Gupta
Edited by Namrata Caleb, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist
Countless politicians, bureaucrats as well as social activists have proffered to keep the Ganga alive. The Media, as well as multiple NGOs have all regarded this as a burning issue and the same has emerged time and again in national discourse. So much so that even the Prime Minister of our country considered cleaning up the Ganga one of the primary goals of his government. However, despite all the debate, deliberation and budgetary allocation, there has been no real amelioration in the condition of the river.
What started through a PIL in 1985 gathered momentum with the establishment of the Ganga Action Plan initiated by Rajiv Gandhi in 1986. Following this, multiple plans and projects were undertaken by successive governments but largely to little or no effect. With thousands of crores having been spent on the project and thousands more as allocated expenditure, one question begs to be answered. Why is there no improvement in the condition or the river? The reason for this is fairly complex. It is not only the lack of political motivation, but also the ignorance and the unwillingness of the people of the country to do something about the issue. It’s a pity to see many of the “Save Ganga” paraphernalia floating down the river itself and adding further shame to what is undoubtedly the lifeline of the country. It is even more of a pity to see administration after administration wash its hands off the issue and lose interest owing to the scale and size of the operation.
However, with the proposal to prepare a feasibility report of the plan to clean the Ganga mentioned in the present budget, one thought that there would be some positive movement in this direction. Unfortunately, it has been far from so. The situation is so acute that the Supreme Court itself has issued a directive to the Government to show the progress made on this issue and has ordered that the “issue is very important and it has to be put on front burner”. One of the major reasons for this delay is being attributed to the fact that more than one Ministry appears to be responsible for this, making the bureaucratic hurdles a nightmare. That though, cannot be used as an excuse as this is an issue that not only is related to the Prime Minister’s constituency, but also the source of livelihood for many millions of Indians. There is also the risk of communalism seeping into the entire issue, with the former environment minister Jairam Ramesh already suggesting how this project may be hijacked as a Hindutva appeasing tool.
The failure of the Ganga Action Plan went a long way in demonstrating that mere good intention is not enough to get rid of the mess we find ourselves in. This intention has to be backed by strong execution and planning and most importantly by basic civic sense. The protection and preservation of the Ganga begins with ourselves and there is only so much that the Government itself can do if people refuse to change their attitude. In order to ensure that the cleaning act of the river is not merely a political trump card, but may actually become a reality, there needs to be an extensive shift in the approach to the issue. There are already claims by the ruling government that the entire process is being fast tracked in order to ensure that within the next month there is a clear line of action as to how the “Ganga Manthan” is to proceed. With the Supreme Court directives making this an issue that will be in the limelight and keeping in mind the Prime Minister’s own promises on the matter, it is expected that we will see favourable developments in the coming months. However, we can only hope that once again, it isn’t politics that emerges as the winner here and that the action taken in cleaning up the Ganga is beneficial to the entire country in the long run.Tanuj is a final year student of B.Com (Hons.) at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata. Simultaneously pursuing CA and doing his Articleship, the remaining time that he gets he spends debating, reading, writing and procrastinating. Not usually in that order. With a keen interest and opinion on practically everything under the sun, he is always more than enthusiastic to share it with others and can be contacted on [email protected] for any sort of lively discussion.