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Modi to become first PM to visit all five Central Asian countries in one go during his upcoming tour

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New Delhi: Prime Minister, Narendra Modi leaves on Monday on an eight-day tour that will take him to the five Central Asian countries of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, and to Ufa in Russia where he will attend the BRICS and SCO back-to-back summits.

Modi will he the first Indian prime minister in recent times to visit all five Central Asian countries at one go.

Trade with the resource-rich region, in which China has made major inroads, stands at a paltry $1.6 billion.

Connectivity, especially through the proposed North-South Transport Corridor, will be on top of the talks agenda between Modi and the Central Asian leaders.

India will seek to boost energy cooperation and trade with the five nations, which were part of the erstwhile Soviet Union.

In Ufa, the summit of the five BRICS countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — come as the board of governors of the BRICS bank, called the New Development Bank, which will hold its first meet in on Tuesday. The bank’s president is India’s M.V. Kamath.

Writing about the visit on his Facebook page, Modi said his first stop will be Uzbekistan, where he will hold talks with President Islam Karimov and both sides would ink key agreements to strengthen cooperation.

Modi said he would be interacting with Indologists, students learning Hindi and members of the Indian community.

“It was in Tashkent that we lost one of our most popular and respected leaders, Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri ji, who ignited our nation with the clarion call of ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan’. I will be paying my tributes to this proud son of India during the visit,” Modi said.

In Kazakhstan, his next stop which he will visit on July 7-8, Modi said he will hold talks with President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, and Prime Minister, Karim Massimov.

“There will be delegation level talks with President Nazarbayev followed by the signing of documents and a joint press statement,” he said.

Modi said he looks forward to interacting with the youth of Kazakhstan at the Nazarbayev University.

He will also inaugurate the India-Kazakhstan Centre for Excellence in Information and Communication Technology at the L.N. Gumilev Eurasian National University and also join a wreath-laying ceremony and planting of sapling at the Monument of Defenders of Motherland.

Modi will then visit Ufa for the 7th BRICS Summit and SCO Summit.

He expressed hope that the BRICS summit would build on the ground covered during the last summit in Fortaleza, Brazil.

“I expect positive outcomes in economic cooperation and cultural ties among the BRICS nations.”

Modi said he will be meeting the leaders – Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff, China’s Xi Jinping, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and South Africa’s Jacob Zuma – individually too, apart from at Ufa, and also will be meeting business leaders.

At the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit, India is an observer but is hoping to be included as a permanent member.

He flies to Turkmenistan on July 11 — in the first visit by an Indian prime minister since P.V. Narasimha Rao in 1995.

Modi said he will hold talks with President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, which would be followed by signing of agreements and a meeting with the press.

Areas for boosting ties include tourism, fertilizers, space, science and technology and defence.

“Our bilateral trade is way below its potential and I am confident we can improve it,” Modi said.

He will also inaugurate a statue of Mahatma Gandhi and a Traditional Medicine and Yoga Centre and also lay wreath at the mausoleum of the first president.

His next visit on July 12 would be to Kyrgyzstan, in the first prime ministerial visit in the last 20 years.

Modi would hold talks with President Almazbek Atambaye and also meet Prime Minister Semir Tariyev and Speaker of the Parliament Asylbek Jeenbekov.

India is gifting medical equipment to Kyrgyz Field Hospital.

Modi will inaugurate tele-medicine links, which shall promote medical tourism from Kyrgyzstan to India. A statue of Mahatma Gandhi will also be unveiled.

“I will have the opportunity to visit the Kyrgyz-India Mountain Biomedical Research Centre and join the Wreath Laying Ceremony at the Victory Monument in Bishkek,” he said.

On Tajikistan, his last stop, Modi said the last prime ministerial visit from India was by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in November 2003.

He said India and Tajikistan have a strategic partnership and very strong defence cooperation, but economic cooperation has been limited and the scope of growth was immense. Bilateral trade has huge potential.

“My visit will build on the existing strong diplomatic and defence ties and script a fresh chapter in our economic ties. I look forward to meeting President Emomali Rahmon. Key agreements will also be signed after our meeting. I will gifting medicines for the India-Tajikistan Friendship Hospital,” he said.

A statue of Rabindranath Tagore will also be unveiled in Dushanbe. (IANS)

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A Clean Ganga Not Possible Without Continuous Flow: Green

Bandyopadhayay stressed that the future of the Ganga, as well as that of its tributaries, depends on how quickly the transformation is made

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The Holy River Ganga in Haridwar, Source: Pixabay

By Bappaditya Chatterjee

The Centre’s efforts to rejuvenate the Hindu holy river have failed to impress environmentalists, who feel a clean Ganga will remain a distant dream due to the Modi government’s failure to ensure the continuous flow of the river.

“Nothing has been done for ensuring a continuous flow of the river and also for its rejuvenation by the Narendra Modi government. Continuity is of supreme importance as the holy river has been admitted in the Intensive Care Unit for many years. But the Centre is trying to treat its teeth,” said Magsaysay awardee and a member of the erstwhile National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA), Rajendra Singh.

Spending crores of rupees for beautification of ghats has been “wastage of the public exchequer” because “without ensuring a continuous flow, clean Ganga will continue to remain a distant dream”, said Rajendra Singh, who goes by the sobriquet “Waterman of India”.

 

Ganga, travel
River Ganga is one of the holiest rivers in India. Pixabay

Soon after assuming office, the Modi government rolled out its flagship “Namami Gange” mission at an estimated budget Rs 20,000 crore to clean and protect the Ganga.

 

Under Namami Gange, 254 projects worth Rs 24,672 crore have been sanctioned for various activities such as construction of sewage infrastructure, ghats, development of crematoria, river front development, river surface cleaning, institutional development, biodiversity conservation, afforestation, rural sanitation and public participation.

According to the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, 131 projects out of 254 were sanctioned for creating 3,076 MLD (million litre per day) new sewage treatment plants (STPs), rehabilitating 887 MLD of existing STPs and laying 4,942 km of sewer lines for battling pollution in the Ganga and Yamuna rivers.

 

River Ganga is one of the holiest, yet the most polluted river.
River Ganga is also the most polluted river.

Till November-end of the 2018-19 fiscal, the National Mission for Clean Ganga released Rs 1,532.59 crore to the states and the Central Public Sector Undertakings for implementing the programme and meeting establishment expenditure.

Rajendra Singh said: “Ganga wants freedom today. There is no need for any barrage or dam. We want building of dams and any constructions on the river be stopped.”

 

Echoing Singh, another member of the now dissolved NGRBA, K.J. Nath, said the flow of the river had been obstructed at many locations and its own space (flood plains) encroached upon at multiple places in the name of riverfront development.

However, Jayanta Bandyopadhayay, a former Professor of IIM-Calcutta and presently Distinguished Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, said the success or otherwise of initiatives and projects of any government in cleaning the Ganga cannot be judged in a five-year time frame.

Also Read: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Inaugurates Bogibeel Bridge Over Brahmaputra River

Managing a river like the Ganga, the lifeline of a very large number of people, is socio-technically a very complex issue and should be addressed with deep interdisciplinary knowledge, he added.

Bandyopadhayay stressed that the future of the Ganga, as well as that of its tributaries, depends on how quickly the transformation is made from the one dimensional perspective of rivers by engineers, political leaders, policymakers and others to a multidimensional and interdisciplinary one. (IANS)