Following very little progress on the Ganga cleaning project, Uma Bharti has been shunted to the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, until now part of the portfolio of the rural development minister along with panchayati raj. All three ministries used to be handled by Chaudhary Birendra Singh, after which they were given to Narendra Singh Tomar, who retains the other two charges. Bharti’s displeasure with the reshuffle was clear from her absence from the oath-taking ceremony Sunday. Her aides refused to comment on her new posting.
The sole focus of the drinking water and sanitation ministry has been Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s showpiece Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin). Although Bharti is in charge, many refer to the PMO’s faith in drinking water secretary Parameswaran Iyer and point to the fact that the ministry’s job is mainly restricted to funding and overseeing implementation by the states.
Since its launch three years ago in 2014, the mission claims to have increased coverage of rural household toilets from 38 percent to 67. The mission aims to have a 100 per cent clean and open defecation-free (ODF) India by October 2019. Bharti also has the task of reviving the focus on sanitation, initially a stated objective of the SBM-G, and the elimination of manual scavenging..