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Modi visit: MP govt forms 5,000-strong team to ensure pollution-free Narmada event

The government does not want attendees to pollute the river, causing undue embarrassment to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

bhopal Updated: May 15, 2017 09:39 IST

Ranjan, Hindustan Times, Bhopal
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will perform a pooja at the point of the Narmada river’s origin as part of the concluding ceremony on Monday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will perform a pooja at the point of the Narmada river’s origin as part of the concluding ceremony on Monday.(PTI photo)

To prevent any embarrassment to Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the Narmada Seva Yatra’s concluding ceremony at Amarkantak in Anuppur district on Monday, the Madhya Pradesh government has asked 5,000 BJP activists to ensure that the river is not polluted by those attending the event.

These volunteers will assist government officials in the task of segregating garbage, and making certain that it is disposed of in a responsible manner.

Modi will participate in the event, which is expected to be attended by around five lakh people. The yatra was launched by chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan five months ago with the objective of preserving the river, which many across the state depend on for subsistence.

Sources said environmental concerns raised by the Bhopal central zone bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on a petition, besides the damage done to the Yamuna river due to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living programme on the Yamuna last year, have been weighing heavily on Chouhan’s mind.

Modi had attended the Art of Living programme too.

Official sources said Chouhan will stay on in Anuppur to oversee the cleaning arrangements till May 16, long after the Prime Minister’s departure.

The NGT had recently sought a report from the district collector, asking him to specify the measures being implemented to prevent pollution of the Narmada on the day of the event. The petitioner, Sanjiv Tiwari, had expressed concern that the river would be affected by as many as five lakh people taking a holy dip during the concluding ceremony.

The opposition, meanwhile, has raised questions over the propriety of holding such a huge event when it would clearly go against the very objective of the Narmada Seva Yatra. State Congress president Arun Yadav and state opposition leader Ajay Singh even held a joint press conference to question Modi’s participation in the ceremony when the state government itself was under a cloud for allegedly allowing illegal sand mining in the river. “Does the Prime Minister indirectly support illegal mining in the state?” they asked.

Youth Congress general secretary Vishal Bisen wrote a letter to the NGT chairman, stating that no arrangements were made to check the potentially adverse impact a gathering of five lakh people would have on the Narmada.

The state government, however, chose to look on the brighter side of the upcoming event. “It is an honour to have PM @narendramodi launch #NarmadaSevaMission on May 15 and write a new chapter of the river-led development in MP,” tweeted Chouhan on Sunday.

State cabinet minister Sanjay Pathak also shrugged off allegations that the concluding ceremony would end up polluting the Narmada. “The meeting venue is located about a kilometre from the river. The Prime Minister will perform a pooja at the Narmada origin point, but people will not be allowed to visit it until he gets there. Mass feasts were organised by various ashrams in the town, but no plastic plates were used to serve the food,” he said.

Pathak also said over 550 toilets had been built on the site by Sunday afternoon – and more were being constructed – to prevent attendees from excreting in the river.

First Published: May 14, 2017 21:48 IST

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