The Ganga is having a good run of late.
On March 20, the Uttarakhand high court declared that the river, the lifeblood of northern India, is a living entity. The ruling means that the river, sacred to millions of Hindus, has the same rights as a living person. Presumably, therefore, it can’t be damaged and polluted with impunity any longer.
The judgment will come in handy as the Narendra Modi government sinks Rs20,000 crore into the Namami Gange scheme to try and rescue the river. The rather ambitious project includes filtering out sewage and industrial discharge that flow into the river, beautification of ghats, afforestation, and restoration of aquatic life, among others.
Lately, India’s lawmakers, too, are very interested in the Ganga. Members of both houses of parliament, the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, have displayed an unusual propensity to question the government on the condition of the Ganga.
There is still time left in the current Lok Sabha’s term, but already members of parliament (MP) have queried the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government nearly 100 times on the Ganga. In previous terms, when the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was in power, the river has scarcely had this sort of attention.
On March 23, for instance, four MPs in the Lok Sabha had questions on the Ganga:
- Kirron Kher (BJP): On the details of sewage and waste water treatment infrastructure currently in place
- Sunil Kumar Mandal (Trinamool Congress): On whether the government has been successful in spreading awareness amongst the public about the cleaning of the Ganga
- Kirti Jha Azad (BJP): On how much of the river has already been cleaned, and whether this is being undertaken by the government agencies or through the private sector
- Neelam Sonker (BJP): On “whether the government has formulated any concrete policy to make the Ganga river clean” and the funds allocated
An analysis of the most recent 50 questions on the Ganga in the Lok Sabha reveals that MPs from the BJP are the most curious lawmakers on this subject. Somewhat unexpectedly, members from the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) are the second most inquisitive bunch.
(Note: Since MPs can ask questions either individually or in groups, the total number of MPs who have raised the most recent 50 Ganga-related queries won’t add up to 50.)
Some MPs have even raised multiple queries in the last few months. Since July 2016, for instance, BJP MP from Uttar Pradesh’s Bijnor, Bharatendra Singh, has asked five questions about the Ganga. The Trinamool Congress’s Sunil Kumar Mondal is next, with three enquiries during the same period.
But will all this recent attention in parliament and crores of rupees help get the Ganga back in shape? That’s anybody’s guess at the moment.