Dying for a cause

Dying for a cause

While the high-profile Baba Ramdev hogged national attention with a fast against corruption last fortnight, a young swami was fighting the Uttarakhand government, unknown to most people,  to get the Ganga cleaned up in its mountain course. Swami Nigamanand died while he was on a protest fast for 115 days against illegal stone quarrying and sand mining in the river bed. The BJP’s Uttarakhand government, which has the responsibility to keep the Ganga clean in the Rishikesh- Hardwar region, did not respond to Nigamanand’s demand. Partisan politics corrupts policies and issues. While the BJP supports Ramdev and tries to use his campaign for its politics,  it says Nigamanand’s death should not be politicised. The Congress, which vilifies Ramdev,  makes a hero and a martyr of Nigamanand and  tries to extract whatever advantage it can draw from his death. Both parties are unconcerned about the issues involved.

It is unfortunate that a young swami, who undertook a sincere campaign to keep the Ganga clean, had to pay the price with his life for his pains. Much money has been spent on the river to keep it clean. The Central and state governments and international agencies have in the past deployed huge funds which have gone down the drain. The swami wanted the state government to stop a company from quarrying and mining in an 80-km stretch of the river from Muni ki Reti to Rishikesh and near Hardwar. The government passed a ban order but did not enforce it, and this, according to some, was deliberate. Quarrying and mining have damaged the ecology of the region. River islands have disappeared, the river bed has cracked up, river life has diminished and water has been polluted. The government was unwilling to take effective action to save the river.

Chief minister Ramesh Pokhriyal had once held a  cabinet meeting on the banks of the river to show his government is committed to a clean Ganga. But the nexus between the quarrying and mining mafias and the government is well known and the swami became a victim. His death is under investigation and there are charges of foul play. In any case, the government cannot escape moral responsibility for its failure to act on the demands of the swami and for his death. It did not have to deal with foreign governments and banks to keep a stretch of the river clean.

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