In an embarrassment to the government, the NGT has been moved to act against some BJP leaders for making mockery of the Centre’s ambitious Swachh Bharat Mission and Ganga rejuvenation plan. The allegation is that a woman BJP MP from Uttar Pradesh threw a plastic bottle in the river Saryu, a tributary of the Ganga, in presence of a minister in the Yogi Adityanath government. The incident has been narrated by two law students from a private university in Gurgaon before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) seeking initiation of criminal proceedings and imposition of fine on the basis of “polluter pays principle”. The plea said the negligent act of the two leaders is a “classic example of mockery of Namami Gange project and Swachh Bharat Mission initiated by their own government”.
Swachh Bharat Mission was officially launched on October 2, 2014 and aims universal sanitation and open defecation eradication by 2019, on the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. The government had in 2016 allocated Rs 11,300 crore for both rural and urban areas for Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. The Budget 2016-17 has earmarked Rs 9,000 crore for rural areas, while Rs 2,300 crore for the urban areas. The government had announed 0.5 per cent Swachh Bharat Cess on all taxable services from November 15, 2015. Under the “Namami Gange” programme, the Centre has a budget outlay of Rs 20,000 crore for the next five years which aims to clean and protect the river Ganga.
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The petition filed through their advocate Gaurav Bansal is based on media reports which said that the woman MP, who was with the minister during the June 2 inspection of an embankment on the Saryu, tossed the plastic water bottle into the river. The purported incident of which they have annexed the video clippings and photographs in the petition happened while they were taking a round of the river in a motorboat. “(Woman) can be seen in the video boarding the boat holding a plastic water bottle and carelessly tossing it up into the river. The whole incident was recorded by the media persons who were present there,” the plea said.
It claimed that after drinking the remaining water from the bottle, the BJP MP asked the minister what to do with the bottle. “Without waiting for the answer from him, she looked around and tossed up the bottle into the river,” the plea claimed. The matter is likely to come up before a vacation bench in the last week of June. The media reports annexed with the petition reflect that the two politicians had recently travelled more than 100 km to Gonda from Lucknow for the Saryu embankment inspection where the incident took place.
The accumulation of plastic in the environment has harmful effects that could prove to be carcinogenic or promote endocrine disruption, it said.
“The applicants request the apex green court to issue notice to the respondents and direct the Ministry of Water Resources to initiate criminal proceedings under Environment Protection Act for not obeying the laws… “Prohibit the use of plastic on the banks of tributaries of river Ganga namely Saryu, Ramganga etc,” the plea said.