Congress urges PM to speak on land rights, Agnipath and Ankita Bhandari in Uttarakhand

PM Modi, who is scheduled to address election rallies in ‘Devbhoomi’ of Uttarakhand, must speak on people’s issues and concerns on their mind, urges Congress spokesperson Jairam Ramesh

Jairam Ramesh highlights 3 pressing issues: land rights laws, rising crimes against women, and the failure of the Namami Gange Yojana (photo: PTI)
Jairam Ramesh highlights 3 pressing issues: land rights laws, rising crimes against women, and the failure of the Namami Gange Yojana (photo: PTI)

Jairam Ramesh

The last time PM Modi went to Uttarakhand, we asked him to speak on

1. Ankita Bhandari murder case

2. ⁠Unemployment in the state

3. ⁠Protests against Agnipath

4. ⁠Investigation in the Silkyara tunnel collapse

The PM said nothing on these serious matters. He is going to the state again today. Hopefully, he will have the courage to speak on these three serious issues:

1. In December last year, thousands of protestors gathered in Dehradun to demand stricter land rights laws, prohibiting the large-scale sale of agricultural land to individuals from other states. Uttarakhand is the only Himalayan state that allows the sale of agricultural land to outsiders.

In 2003, the state’s INC Govt had restricted the sale of agricultural land to outsiders, allowing the purchase of at most 500 sq.m. of land, only for farming purposes. In 2008, the cap was reduced to 250 sq.m. In 2018, the BJP lifted the cap entirely, allowing the purchase of large tracts of land, and allowing changes in land-use. While this was done under the guise of “development”, no industries were set up and instead, large land banks cropped up in commercially important areas. Uttarakhand was created to preserve the rights of the mountain people. Why has the BJP stripped them of their hard-won rights?

2. Uttarakhand recorded the highest number of cases of rape of women and children among the nine Himalayan states, according to data released by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in December. Crimes against women rose by 77 per cent in 2022 compared to the three years prior.

The proportion of crimes against women has almost doubled under BJP, from 30.4 per cent in 2016 to 59.5 per cent in 2022. This is even higher than UP, where the rate of crimes against women stands at 46.8 per cent of overall crimes.

Last year, the state was rocked by the horrifying murder of Ankita Bhandari, in which multiple BJP leaders were implicated by the victim’s family. The latest statistics show that this case was not an outlier, and is in fact part of a worrying trend of deteriorating women’s safety in the state.

Why has law and order deteriorated so drastically under BJP rule? What is the BJP government doing to protect the women and children of Uttarakhand from such heinous crimes?

3. The Modi government launched its flagship Namami Gange Yojana in 2014 with the goal of improving water quality in the river Ganga. The project sanctioned an outlay of 20,000 crores between 2014 and 2019, and 815 new sewage treatment plants (STPs) had been built or proposed by 2021.

The Ministry of Jal Shakti claims that there has been a marked improvement in the state of the river but, as is often the case with this government, that claim turned out to be a bold-faced lie. The Sankat Mochan Foundation found that rather than improving, water quality in the Ganga has actually been consistently degrading. The Central Pollution Control Board also found that water quality does not comply with their standards.

While the Ministry of Jal Shakti claims that new STPs are working fine, a professor at IIT Varanasi said they were “utterly useless” and that the government’s plans were completely “bogus”. Furthermore, as early as 2017, a CAG audit report of the project noted “deficiencies in financial management, planning, implementation and monitoring”.

To make matters worse, contracts for STPs have been awarded to companies with well-established links to the BJP.

In 2017, a 150+ crore STP contract was given to a company chaired by former BJP MP Subhash Chandra that had no record of working in sewage treatment. The Adani group operates another plant, and “scientific” studies worth ~5 crore have been awarded to the Patanjali Organic Research Institute.

The rot runs so deep in the BJP that their failure to clean our holy river is hardly a surprise. The PM should clarify: how has he delivered on one of the signature promises he made to the people of the country at the beginning of his tenure as PM?

(Posted on his X handle by the Congress General secretary in charge of communications)

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines