Six letters written by fasting Agrawal

Arun Srivastava

During the 2014 general election campaign in his Varanasi constituency Narendra Modi had said; “Ganga Maa has called me to serve her”. But after becoming prime minister, he conveniently forgot his words and promises. A true son of Ganga, Prof G D Agarwal, lost his life after 111 days hunger strike for protection of Ganga, but it failed to move his conscience.
After Agrawal’s death the local people came to realise his sacrifice. They reminisced Modi’s words during the campaign and started searching her son; but he was not to be seen anywhere.
It is worthwhile to recall what Nitish had said in 2017 while he ran the alliance government; the hype created around Namami Gange programme focussing on the cleanliness of river Ganga. "The Namami Gange project launched by the central government speaks about cleanliness and continuity of River Ganga But when I see the projects under this program, I find that the focus is mainly cleanliness, and not continuity. This is a cause of concern", Nitish.had said.
Prominent water conservationist Rajendra Singh, a winner of the prestigious Stockholm Water Prize, had slammed Modi and criticised his government for indifferent “attitude towards Ganga”. He charged him with conveniently forgetting that he had described himself as the “son of Ganga”. Singh also derided Modi; “If one’s mother is ailing, a son seeks the best of doctors to cure her. Now that Modi is the PM, he has the best of doctors at his disposal, why doesn’t he use them?”
It is really a matter of disgrace that Modi, who constantly spoke about ensuring ‘aviralta’ (continuous flow) and ‘nishchalta’ (cleanliness) of Ganga during his campaign, turned a deaf ear to the letters and requests of Agarwal. To save his face he took shelter behind the facade of law and rules. Modi forgot aviralta (continuity) because it would mean bringing tough laws but remembers nishchalta because it would mean having opportunity of giving more contracts for cleaning.
The real son of Ganga, the crusader GD Agarwal, had said just before his death: “I have lost”. Agarwal, an environmental activist, died after nearly a four-month hunger strike. He resorted to the strike in June to pressurise the government to take action for rejuvenation of Ganga. The government project had pledged to clean up the Ganges, a river considered sacred in Hinduism.
After Agarwal’s death Modi took to twitter to pay condolence, but during his lifetime he did not care to reply to even one of his six letters. The IIT professor-turned-monk, who died fasting for a cleaner Ganga, had written six letters to Narendra Modi without any success. What is indeed shocking is the suggestion of Swami Avimukteshwaranand, a sadhu based in Modi’s constituency of Varanasi, that Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand had died under “mysterious circumstances” at AIIMS Rishikesh after being forcibly taken there from his protest spot in Hardwar.
“His fellow sadhus at Matri Sadan have revealed that river development and Ganga rejuvenation minister Nitin Gadkari had spoken to him on the phone a few days ago and said his demands wouldn’t be met even if he died fasting,” Avimukteshwaranand alleged. “He wrote on February 24, June 13 and June 22 --- the day he began his hunger strike. The last letter was written on September 9, mentioning all his previous letters, while informing Modi that he would stop drinking water from October 10.
Just after two days of Agarwal’s death another activist, 36-year-old Sant Gopaldas, who has been fasting since June 24, was rushed to AIIMS in Rishikesh. Gopaldas stopped the intake of water three days ago demanding that mining activities along the Ganga river bed be stopped and concrete steps be taken to rejuvenate the river. After the death of G.D. Agarwal on October 12, Gopaldas announced that he would shift the location of his fast to Matri Sadan, where Agarwal had been fasting.
One of the demands of Agrawal was that the water flow in the Ganges be restored to 80% of its original flow. Swamiji was demanding stoppage of ongoing and any new construction of dams. The river is revered by Hindus, who believe bathing in its waters can bring healing and spiritual redemption.
Initiatives to clean the Ganga began with the Ganga Action Plan I in 1986. Till 2014, over Rs 4,000 crore had been spent. But the river has remained dirty. So when the National Democratic Alliance government launched the Namami Gange in mid-May 2015, there was a new hope. It was the biggest-ever initiative—over Rs 20,000 crore was allotted. Prime Minister Narendra Modi made it his personal agenda and set a deadline: “Ganga will be clean by 2019”, it has now been extended to 2020.
The government’s lack of keenness in accomplishing the Namami Gange project is the clear manifestation of its apathy towards cleaning Ganga and not treating it as the symbol of Hindutva and acknowledging it as the emancipator of Hindus. (IPA)

Sunday, 28 October, 2018