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Union minister Nitin Gadkari, who assumed additional charge of water resources ministry today, announced formation of an inter-ministerial task force to expedite execution of the Centre's ambitious Namami Gange mission, which is allegedly behind schedule. Gadkari, who was accompanied by his predecessor Uma Bharti when he took charge, said the ministry would come out with a detailed schedule on achieving various targets under the mission in a time-bound and transparent manner in a week. Heaping praises on Bharti for working hard and doing all the ground work towards cleaning the river in the past three years, he said he would try that the ministry attains the October 2018 deadline set by his predecessor for freeing the river of the filth. It was often alleged that the project was lagging behind schedule during the past three years, when Bharti was at the helm of the ministry. Ministers of State for Water Resources, Arjun Ram Meghwal and Satyapal Singh, also, assumed charge in the ministry today, replacing Vijay Goel and Sanjiv Kumar Balyan. "We will form a task force. We will try to realise the dreams of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and also Uma ji in a time-bound, transparent manner. We will attain all the deadlines fixed by Umaji," Gadkari, who also heads the Road Transport and Shipping Ministry, told reporters here. The task force is expected to have ministers from water resources, urban affairs, tourism, environment and forest, drinking water and sanitation and rural development among others onboard. Referring to the government's campaign for doubling a farmer's income by 2022, Gadkari said the goal cannot be achieved if there was water shortage. He also pitched for providing peasants with irrigation facilities through Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKYS), another key programme of the ministry. He also advocated use of innovative techniques like drip irrigation in this connection and appreciated Bharti for working in this sphere. "The country's future is linked to that of farmers, whose future in turn, is linked to the PMKYS," he said, stressing on extending the scheme in states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand and others to tackle water shortage. On the issue of river interlinking, Gadkari said the water resources ministry will try to work seeking cooperation of all the stakeholders concerned. He underscored the need for adopting "an integrated approach" to combat flood situation and said the ministry will have to study how lives can be protected and damages to properties caused by inundations can be reduced. Praising Bharti, who headed the water resources ministry till the Cabinet was reshuffled yesterday, Gadkari said he had seen her and officials concerned work "really hard". "Assuming charge from her is like everything was ready in the kitchen and I took charge when the food was about to be served.
It is a bid sad that she did the hard work and now I am taking charge," he added. On her part, Bharti exuded confidence that the ministry would be able to attain its goals under Gadkari's leadership. "I don't find any difference between me and him. Rather, I am happy that he has taken the charge and I believe all the work would be completed," she added. Gadkari replaced Bharti in the ministry, allegedly as the Namami Gange mission, dear to Modi and a key poll promise of the ruling BJP, was moving at a snail's pace. The slow implementation was the ostensible reason behind Gadkari, considered one of the top-performing ministers in the Modi cabinet, getting the additional charge of the water resources ministry, sources said. The Centre has set a target of 2018 for cleaning the mighty river, which touches lives of millions of Indians in one way or the other. According to sources in the ministry, a total of 160 projects, worth around Rs 12,500 crore, have been approved under the Namami Gange Mission -- a Rs 20,000-crore project for cleaning the river. These include developing river fronts, setting up sewage treatment plants and construction of ghats and crematoria, among others. Till now, only 40 projects have been completed, the sources said.
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