Ganga activist’s death exposes Modi

GD Agarwal

The long campaign for a clean Ganga has claimed another life, with the death of GD Agarwal who was on a fast to save the river. The river is almost dead for most of its course with silt, sewage, chemicals and other effluents making its water unfit for any use and a health hazard. Agarwal had been fighting for the river for many years. He was a US-trained hydrologist and a professor at IIT-Kanpur and was the first member secretary of the Central Pollution Control Board. He was also on the board of the National Ganga Basin Authority but resigned from that position as he was disillusioned with its functioning. He became an environmental activist and a campaigner, then a monk in 2011 and finally a martyr for the Ganga. He died on the 112th day of his fast, after the police removed him to a hospital. Another swami, Nigamanand, had died in 2010 while he was on a fast to end sand-mining on the river bed. 

Agarwal had deep knowledge of the Ganga, acquired through study and observation. He wanted the government to take steps to ensure the smooth flow of water in the river. He argued that the cleaning of the water by stopping the discharge of effluents into the river was not enough and wanted an uninterrupted flow of water to be always maintained. He was therefore against the construction of dams, barrages and other structures in the river that would block or alter its course. The UPA government had accepted his position, but he thought that the NDA government needed to be convinced and persuaded on that. In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the fast, he said that “it was my expectation that you would make special efforts for the sake of Gangaji’’ but that “in the past four years, all actions taken by your government have not been gainful’’. 

The government issued a notification a day before his death which said that it would ensure a minimum flow of water even after it is diverted for irrigation and other purposes, but that did not satisfy the man on a mission. He felt that the environmental flow rates promised by the government were not scientifically correct. It is ironic that an activist died fasting for a cause to which the Modi government is supposedly giving top attention and priority. Thousands of crores of rupees have been spent on plans, from the Ganga Action Plan of 1986 to the latest Namami Gange programme, but the Ganga still flows filthy and dirty. The challenge calls for a better response from the government and society. 

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Ganga activist’s death exposes Modi

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