NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious Clean Ganga Project continues to hit roadblocks as 17 posts in the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA), the nodal agency of the clean-up drive, are lying vacant.
The NGRBA was transferred from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to the Ministry of Water Resources in August.
Sources revealed that, as per plans, 24 people had to be transferred from the MoEF to the Ministry of Water resources, but only 7 were done and thus 17 posts are lying vacant.
Interestingly, of the seven, one is National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) Director Rajeev Ranjan Mishra, another official is Pushkal Upadhayay and the other four are daily wage workers. A scientist is reluctant to switch ministries as she will retire in a year’s time.
“How are we supposed to run the Ganga rejuvenation programme when we don’t have scientists and experts to take the task forward? In an agency tasked with such an important work, 17 of 24 posts are vacant and we really don’t know if any appointment will happen soon,” said a senior Water Resources Ministry official.
Some officials who work under the MoEF are not ready to join the Ministry of Water Resources as they fear the change may adversely affect their perks and privileges. The office of the NGRBA continues to remain in the Scope Complex in Lodhi Road.
“This is despite several efforts made by senior Water Ministry officials convincing them that everything will remain the same and they would continue to remain in their cadre,” revealed a source.
“The situation at present is like when a new district is carved out all enterprising people are kept by the parent district and the new district is left to struggle for itself. We are going through the same phase, but not having people is hampering the work and this needs to be addressed quickly,” said a senior Water Resources Ministry official. He added that the issue had been brought to the notice of Water Resources Minister Uma Bharati.
The NGRBA, which is headed by the Prime Minister, was formed as the top body for river Ganga, but in the last five years only three meetings of the NGRBA has taken place with the last one in April 2012.
The government in an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court last month has set a three phase plan - short-term, medium-term and long-term - to clean the river at a cost of over Rs 51,000 crore in next 18 years.
The NDA government has allocated special funding of Rs 2,000 crore in the budget to clean the river under ‘Namami Ganga’.
The government had also informed the Supreme Court about its intentions to “modify and restructure” the NGRBA.
“In the last five years, the NGRBA had only three meetings as the Prime Minister has to handle all kind of works. Thus some changes have been brought in functioning of the NGRBA. Now Water Resources Minister Uma Bharati has been nominated as Vice-Chairman of the NGRBA, which would ensure that day-to-day functioning of this body would not suffer.
“Routine decisions of body could be taken by her while broad policy decisions could be decided in meetings whenever the Prime Minister has the time,” the official said. The Prime Minister had chaired a high-level meeting on Ganga cleaning last month and emphasized on making it a mass movement.