By Santosh Kumar Pathak
New Delhi, Jun 5 (IANS): Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat has said that several initiatives undertaken on mission mode by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the last 7-8 years to clean Ganga river has resulted in the cleanliness of its water, from the point of origin till its drainage into the sea (the river empties into Bay of Bengal).
In a conversation with IANS, Shekhawat spoke on several issues, including nine years of Modi government at the Centre, its achievements and criticism by the Opposition.
Here are some excerpts:
IANS: As a Union Minister, what according to you is the biggest achievement of your government in the last nine years?
Shekhawat: Let's recall what the country was passing through before the Modi government came to power in 2014. The corruption was at its peak. New scams that were unfolding every other day were making the headlines. The country was facing a number of challenges on diplomatic, strategic and security fronts. Also, the nation was facing a number of social and economic problems.
People began losing faith in the system. Amid such a scenario, the country handed a historic mandate to the BJP and Narenda Modi and the government was formed. For the first time in 30 years, and also after Independence, people gave such a resounding mandate to a non-Congress party.
If I have to say in a single sentence, this is the biggest achievement of the Narendra Modi government. It re-instilled the faith of the people in the country's system from which they were losing belief.
IANS: But contrary to the government's claims, the opposition parties have been criticising the Modi government over its functioning, and also levelling some serious allegations against it...
Shekhawat: The nation properly understands the pangs of the Opposition, especially that of Congress -- and even more than the party, that of Rahul Gandhi. They have been shown the exit door by the people, and the Congress has not been able to accept this fact that the country has a well-functioning government for the last nine years despite the grand old party not being in power.
Whenever the nation witnessed a moment of pride in the last nine years, the Congress tried to embarrass the country by resorting to making controversial remarks.
IANS: The opposition parties have now been trying to come up with a front against the Modi government for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls...
Shekhawat: They are not doing so for the first time. In 2018, they tried to malign PM Modi over Rafale (fighter jets) and other issues. Many irresponsible statements were also made, yet the people reposed faith in PM Modi in the 2019 general elections. I am fully confident that even in 2024, people will make Narendra Modi the Prime Minister once again, and that too with a higher margin of votes.
IANS: How many seats are being expected (in 2024)?
Shekhawat: In 2019, there was an increase in vote share in comparison to 2014. The same thing will be repeated in 2024, i.e., the ballot share would be more than 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
IANS: PM Narendra Modi came up with the Jal Shakti Ministry keeping several objectives in mind, and you were appointed the Minister. How much progress has been made in terms of achieving those goals?
Shekhawat: A number of initiatives were undertaken as a result of which today, India is not just one of the most-spending nations when it comes to investing in water resources, it has also come up with a major scheme focussed on drinking water. For the first time after Independence, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2019 decided that in the next five years, every rural household will be provided with adequate amount of clean water.
Back then, only 16 per cent households in the country had water supply. And despite the challenges posed by the Covid crisis and the Russia-Ukraine conflict, today, over 12 crore houses are getting drinking water as compared to 3.23 crore houses back then.
We are taking several steps to ensure every house in the country gets water by 2024.
IANS: The government had made several promises on cleaning the Ganga river. However, the Opposition is claiming that the Namami Gange project has failed...
Shekhawat: The job of the Opposition is to criticise for the sake of doing it. But as far as the question of cleaning Ganga is concerned, due to the initiatives undertaken by PM Modi on mission mode in the last seven-eight years, the river scores high on several parameters of cleanliness today -- from the point of its origin till its flow into the sea. An investment of Rs 3,000 crore was done towards this direction. The number of aquatic creatures in the Ganga has also increased -- which proves that cleanliness has improved.
There was a time when the Dolphin was facing the risk of extinction, but today its numbers have increased not by hundreds, but thousands. The Hilsa fish can also be seen in thousands while the number of tortoises has also gone up. All these facts explain that the water of Ganga has become cleaner.
On the auspicious occasion of Kumbh, 22,000 crore people have witnessed the cleanliness of Ganga.
The UN has ranked India's 'Namami Gange' mission related to Ganga cleanliness among the top 10 World Restoration Programmes.