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Rajya Sabha

Status of clean Ganga project sought in Rajya Sabha

NEW DELHI: Saying the water of the river Ganga is not even fit for bathing, a Congress MP in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday demanded to know the status of the clean Ganga project.

Raising the issue through a Zero Hour mention, Kumar Ketkar of the Congress said it was promised that by 2019, the Ganga will be cleaned up.

“Not only me but the whole nation wants to know the status of the clean Ganga project,” he said, adding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself is the chairman of the Clean Ganga Council.

The Central Pollution Board has stated that not only the river is not clean, but it is also unlikely to be cleaned for many years, he said. “And it is not certainly (fit) for bathing purposes.”

The river, he said, is being primarily used as a ‘Shav Vahini’. “More dead bodies have been floating in the Ganga than actually for bathing. More money has been spent on ‘puja-pat’ than on the clean Ganga project,” the MP said.

The budget has gone from Rs 20,000 crore to Rs 30,000 crore but nothing has happened. “Ganga remains as unclean or more unclean,” he alleged.

“‘Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai’ has become ‘Ram Teri Ganga Maili’ (the country where the Ganga flows has now become impure),” he said, referring to two popular Bollywood films. He demanded to know the status of the Ganga project, money allocated and the amount spent so far.

Vandana Chavan (NCP) raised the issue of monoculture plantations such as roadside trees being included in the calculation of forest cover.

While forest cover is being stated to have increased by 2,261 square kilometres in the latest report, what is worrying is that the term forest culture covers monoculture plantation, she said.

Monoculture plantations such as “coffee, coconut, rubber plantation, orchards, bamboo plantation, even destructive palm plantation, plantation along roads, rails and canals, all areas above one hectare having of canopy over 10 per cent” have been included to calculate forest cover, she said.

Though this criterion may be in line with the UNFCC, such plantation cannot be equated with forests where there is an interplay of various life forms and have an influence on soil, air and water, she said.

“The fear is that with this kind of computation, tendency to cut down pristine forest may grow to compensate it with monoculture,” she warned. “The prime minister has said our objective is not just to conserve forest quantitatively but to enrich it qualitatively. We need to walk the talk.”

She demanded amends to the categorisation system in the computation of forest cover.

Prasanna Acharya of the BJD demanded a legislation to allow for change of names of high courts in line with the change in name of the states.

He said while Orissa became Odisha in 2011, the highest court in the state continues to be called the High Court of Orissa.

Similar is the situation with those courts in Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata as they continue to be referred to as High Court of Bombay, High Court of Madras and High Court of Calcutta, he said, adding the nomenclature needs to be changed in keeping with the aspirations and desires of the people.

The name change requires legislation, and the government should bring one to allow for such change, he added.

P Wilson of the DMK demanded the retirement age of high court judges be raised to 65 years from the current 62 years and that of Supreme Court judges to 70 years from 65 years.

This would address vacancies and large pendency of cases in the courts, he said.

While Jose K Mani raised the issue of wildlife-human conflict in Kerala, A D Singh (RJD) wanted visas to be given to Afghan students in Kabul.

Stating that Afghanistan has always been friendly to India, he said a battalion of Afghans can be raised and put in Kashmir to counter Pakistan.

Sumer Singh Solanki of the BJP raised the issue of sickle cell anaemia in the tribal population of Madhya Pradesh and demanded setting up of testing and treatment facilities in hospitals.

Shaktisingh Gohil (Congress) raised the issue of Gujarati fishermen in Pakistani custody.

Pakistani marines routinely seize boats and jail Gujarati fishermen, he said, narrating an incident of 60 fishermen and 10 boats being seized recently.

As many as 643 fishermen from Gujarat are languishing in Pakistani jails, he said, adding the government must use its diplomatic channels to secure their release.

Seema Dwivedi of the BJP demanded a portrait of late legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar in the Parliament House complex.

Source: Press Trust of India

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