AS PART of its mission to clean the Ganga by 2020, the Central government has sanctioned the raising of a Territorial Army (TA) battalion comprising ex-servicemen of the Army.
This battalion will be raised in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, next month as a Composite Ecological Task Force (CETF) battalion of TA for National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG).
The government has allocated Rs 167 crore for the battalion under NMCG, the nodal agency for cleaning the Ganga. The battalion will work on a book debit system with funding provided from the budget of the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.
Due to the slow pace of progress, it is feared that the government may miss its deadline of making the Ganga clean by 2020. This was noted by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Water Resources last year.
In December 2017, a CAG report tabled in Parliament noted that the NMCG “could not utilise any amount out of the Clean Ganga Fund”, which meant that the entire amount of Rs 198.14 crore — as of 31 March 2017 —was lying in banks.
The CETF TA battalion, to be commanded by a Colonel-rank officer, will have eight officers, 20 JCOs and around 500 other ranks on its roll. For the task, it will only enroll ex-servicemen, who will be embodied under TA rules.
Territorial Army, which comes under the Defence Ministry, is considered a second line of defence after the regular Army. Nine Ecological Task Force (ETF) battalions of TA have been raised to execute specific environment-related projects.
The proposal for raising the CETF TA battalion emanated from the Department of Ex-servicemen Welfare in the Defence Ministry, which took up a case in 2014 for cleaning the Ganga. The proposal was vetted and approved by the ministry and the case was forwarded to NMCG. After an approval from the NMCG late last year, the Defence Ministry concurred and issued a Government Sanction Letter last month.
As per an official document, the new CETF TA battalion will be raised in Allahabad “as a pilot project”, and “will be responsible for the tasks and activities related to resurrecting the Ganga”. The battalion will be responsible for monitoring ecological and environmental projects related to the river, and also raise public awareness through campaigns, the official document states.
Although the exact charter of duties is still to be finalised, sources said that besides planting trees and checking soil erosion, the CETF TA will also manage public awareness campaigns, patrol sensitive river areas for the protection of biodiversity, keep a tab on the river pollution levels, assist the government in enforcing pollution control measures, support local civil administration and police in managing the ghats, and provide support and assistance if and when there is a flood or natural disaster in the region.