Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti on Monday hit back at former environment minister Jairam Ramesh, who has accused the Modi government of converting the Ganga cleaning mission into a Hindutva project, saying the Congress should instead leave the holy river out of its communal politics.
“We follow the true spirit of secularism… We do not believe in showing of fake secularism,” Bharti said at the end of the daylong dialogue on Ganga mission called Ganga Manthan. Bharti said she had the support of all people — Hindus and Muslims — to keep the Ganga clean.
On Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s plan to interlink rivers, the minister said the issue will be re-examined. “While the issue was stuck in courts for nine years, river-linking can now be looked into again. Though the previous government slept over it for a year now, we will definitely look into it. Also we will look at cleaning all rivers using the same parameters as in the case of Ganga. These will be river specific, site specific, rainfall and river flow specific,” Bharti said.
On the question of hydroelectric projects dotting Ganga’s upper reaches in Uttarakhand — an issue Bharti has raised and often protested against the construction of dams — she said whatever is possible should be done using new technology but without destroying the river.
She expressed confidence that the mission to clean Ganga will succeed as all ministries were working in coordination and with promptness. She said that all the suggestions made in the National Dialogue will be put up on a website by the weekend for public deliberation as well.
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Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari said there will be no financial hurdles in the way of cleaning the river. “Our government will give it the highest priority and will seek cooperation from all political parties, saints and religious outfits, social groups and the public for this cause”, Gadkari said in his address.
He also proposed to conduct dredging to enable navigation of small ships between Varanasi and Hooghly on Ganga in the first stage of its development. He added his Ministry has sent a proposal in this regard to World Bank for the development of Allahabad-Haldia corridor.
Tourism and Culture Minister Shripada Yasso Naik, meanwhile, said tourism spots will be developed all along the banks of Ganga from Gangotri to Ganga Sagar and plans were afoot to have Kashmir like shikaras on Ganga.