New Delhi: It is not just the opposition which is out to target Prime Minister Narendra Modi's emotive connect with the river Ganga. Statistics show that very little has been done in the past two years of BJP rule - in spite of spending Rs 2,958 crore of the Rs 3,703 crore allocated - to improve the condition of the holy river.
The response to a Right to Information (RTI) poser by a Aishwarya Sharma, a Class 10 student from the city, to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) has revealed that the much-hyped 'Namami Gange' programme is largely on paper, much like the previous schemes declared in the past 30 years.
In her RTI question on May 9, the 14-year-old Lucknow girl has sought answers to seven queries, which included details of the number of meetings the Prime Minister chaired on the sensitive issue, budgetary provisions and the expenses so far. Subroto Hazra, the central public information officer with the PMO, had forwarded the query to the union Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Ministry for a response.
K.K. Sapra of the ministry responded on July 4 and the answers explicitly show that Modi's 'Ganga Maiya ne bullaya hai' (Mother Ganga has summoned me) credo, which endeared Modi to the masses, specially in Varanasi, was little beyond an attempt to milk sentiments and votes.
The ministry said that Rs 2,137 crore was allocated for the national mission of Ganga cleaning in 2014-15. This was cut by Rs 84 crore to Rs 2,053 crore. But the union government, despite the hype, spent only Rs 326 crore, leaving more than Rs 1,700 crore unspent.
The situation did not change much in 2015-16 either and, in fact, the union government slashed the budgetary allocation from the proposed Rs 2,750 crore to Rs 1,650 crore. Of the amended budget, Rs 18 crore was unspent in 2015-16.
"This is completely baffling, keeping in mind the high-decibel campaign by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself on cleaning the Ganga," an upset Aishwarya told IANS, adding she was deeply disappointed.
For the current 2016-17 fiscal, the student said the union government does not have any details of the expenses so far of the Rs 2,500 crore allocated.
Aishwarya also sought to know from "Modi uncle" why he has not been serious on the crucial project as is evident by the fact that of the three meetings of the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA), the Prime Minister chaired only one on March 26, 2015. The other two meetings -- on October 27, 2014 and July 4, 2016 -- were chaired by Union Minister Uma Bharati.
In contrast, Modi's predecessor Manmohan Singh had chaired all the three meetings of the NGRBA held in his second tenure -- on October 5, 2009, November 1, 2010 and April 17, 2012.
"I can just hope that Modi uncle delivers on this front as we all have high expectations from him," Aishwarya said with a wry smile.
Now, only time will tell whether the Modi government, which has promised to spend Rs 20,000 crore over the next five years on Ganga rejuvenation and cleaning, delivers on its promise or not. For now, rather than 'Ganga Maiya ne bullaya hai' the apt credo is "Ganga Maiya ko bhulaya hai" (Mother Ganga has been forgotten).