In January 2019, when the Uttar Pradesh government organises the Kumbh Mela, it will have a special unit to help: a volunteer force of ex-servicemen. The Ganga Task Force (GTF), specially trained by the Ministry of Defence will help with crowd management, spread awareness on keeping the river clean and stop people and industry from polluting the river.Currently, a “battalion” of 300 personnel has already been trained and stationed in Allahabad. Plans are afoot to expand it to 500 and post them in Kanpur and Varanasi, said Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, Director-General, National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG).“The GTF is a unit of the Territorial Army deployed in the services of the Ganga with the approval of Ministry of Defence for four years till December 2020. It consists of three companies of over 100 men each to be stationed at Kanpur, Allahabad and Varanasi, with the Battalion headquarters at Allahabad. The full strength would be 532, including 9 officers and 29 Junior Commanding Officers (JCOs). Big mandate Their functions will include: Planting trees to check soil erosion, patrolling sensitive river areas for biodiversity protection, patrolling ghats, monitoring river pollution, and assisting during floods/natural calamity in the region,” says a note by the NMCG viewed by The Hindu.The jawans have also been trained by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to measure the health of the river.In 2015, the government, had cleared the creation of such a force. However, a defined mandate — such as to punish or imprison those found polluting the river — is being fleshed out in a forthcoming ‘Ganga Act,’ which is yet to be ironed out as a Bill and is under discussion. “They may have the right to bear arms, but we wouldn’t want them to be involved in imprisoning offenders, as that could conflict with the State police,” said Mr. Mishra.The jawans will have boats to keep a watch on activities, the note added.The NMCG runs the ‘Namami Gange’ mission to clean the Ganga river. It has a ₹20,000-crore, Centrally-funded, non-lapsable corpus and consists of nearly 288 projects.