Keeping in tandem with the Narendra Modi government’s plan to clean up Ganga, the Army has proposed to raise 40 eco-battalions to be tasked to “rejuvenate the holy river”.
Sources in the Ministry of Defence said that the battalions, which are likely to be on the lines of existing eco-taskforce of the Army, will be tasked to restore the eco-system along the river.
The proposal, if approved, will include 40 units — approximately 40,000 men, a manpower likely to be raised by “re-employing” ex-servicemen.
While the officers commanding these units and sub-units will be from the regular Army, the Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) and Other Ranks (ORs) will be recruited from the huge ex-servicemen pool.
Sources said the proposal to raise the units is in advanced stages and that recently, there was a meeting held between higher offices of the Army to discuss the modalities of the project. In all likelihood, the battalions would be on the lines of present eco-taskforce units.
At present, the Army has eight eco-taskforces, involved in restoration of ecosystem across the country — for instance, the 128 Infantry Battalion (TA) Eco is attached with the Rajputana Rifles. While two of these units are funded by the Ministry of Environment and Forests and the respective state forest departments, two receive money only from the respective state forest departments and four only from the MoEF. These battalions, however, are associated with regular Army regiments for administrative purposes.
According to the sources, work of the battalions for the Ganga project is likely to be “environmental” and not “cleaning”. “The work requires huge engineering equipment and it is envisaged that almost 50 per cent of the units will have to be equipped with such equipment. Modalities pertaining to the equipment and funding aspects are still under consideration. As a regular practice, the irrigation department provides equipment for such units,” an official said.