The government’s push for additional resources to clean the Ganga seems to have had a limited impact. Over the last two and a half years, more than 80 per cent of donations to the Clean Ganga Fund — created to accept voluntary contributions from individuals and organisations — have come from public sector companies. Until the end of February, the Fund, set up in September 2014, had received Rs 137.6 crore in donations. More than 82% came from public sector companies, and just about 10 per cent — a little over Rs 14 crore — from private companies.
The remaining 7.35 per cent of the Fund value — Rs 10.12 crore — came from individuals, including non-resident Indians, according to information received in response to an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
None of the big names of Indian industry figures in the list of companies that have contributed to the Fund. Most of the contributors are small and medium enterprises. Bank of America is the single largest contributor among private companies, having given Rs 4.67 crore in two installments. That alone accounts for a third of all contributions from the private sector.
Contributions to the Clean Ganga Fund enjoy 100 per cent tax exemption and count as fulfilling Corporate Social Responsibility obligations. But that does not appear to have been a strong enough incentive for the private sector.
While the average contribution from each public sector donor is Rs 1.8 crore, each private company has given only Rs 16.9 lakh on average.
The single biggest contributor to the Fund has been General Insurance Corporation of India, which has given Rs 25 crore in two installments.
The NDA government’s revamped plan for cleaning and rejuvenating the Ganga, called Namami Gange, has been allocated Rs 20,000 crore for the next five years. Unlike previous efforts to clean the river, called the Ganga Action Plan, Namami Gange is funded entirely by the central government, and includes even operational and maintenance costs of sewage treatment plants to be built under the programme.
Realising that much more money might be required to undertake all the activities planned under Namami Gange, the government had launched the Clean Ganga Fund with the hope of “harnessing the enthusiasm” of the general public, including NRIs and People of Indian Origin, towards the programme. So far, the Fund has received 1,313 individual donations, some as small as Rs 10. A total 142 individuals have donated Rs 100, the most popular value of contribution.
The money in the Fund can be used for a variety of purposes, including those that are not explicitly outlined in the Namami Gange programme but are related to maintaining the health of the Ganga river ecosystem, or which receive approval from the Fund trust headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
However, records show that not a single rupee from the Fund has so far been utilised for any purpose.