Four years ago when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was campaigning for the election, one of the promises he made was to clean Ganga. But it is in the same deplorable state as it was in 2014. National Mission for Clean Ganga was launched in October 2016 and yet it failed to do any good. Magsaysay awardee Rajendra Singh, popularly known as ‘Waterman of India’ or ‘Jal Purush’ speaks with The Logical Indian about the situation of the river.
You recently said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not keep his promise of cleaning Ganga. Can you please elaborate on that?
When Narendra Modi came to Benaras in 2014, he said that he was not sent by anyone. He said, “Mujhe Ganga ne bulaya hain, aur mein Ganga ka beta hoon” (I was called by the mother Ganga. I am Ganga’s son). He said, “I want to restore the river and transform her into her previous pristine self.” And this wasn’t just said by him in Benaras. During the 2014 campaigning, he said this everywhere, starting from Uttarakhand to Kashmir to West Bengal. People like us who do not believe in any political party, we thought of this as an opportunity.
We thought, that this man has declared himself as the holy river’s son. So, he might actually do something to clean up the river. We supported him and he became the Prime Minister. To make us happy he set up an independent Ministry for the rejuvenation of the river. Then he made Uma Bharti responsible for the Ministry. Soon she also set up a committee. But the issue has not been taken up in the parliament yet.
All Prime Ministers want to chant ‘Satyameva Jayate”. This Prime Minister does nothing but lies all the time. He just kept on lying.
After all this, I wrote a letter to him. I asked him a simple question. “Modi saab apne chunao se pehle jo wada kiya tha, woh pura hoga kab?” (What happened to your campaign promises?) He did not reply. I waited for six months for a simple reply. Eminent environmentalist Dr G D Agrawal, someone who has an in-depth knowledge of the rivers and nature, said that he was going to sit for an indefinite hunger strike. We all lent support to him.
We said very clearly, that either you fix Ganga or let us kill ourselves. We are ready to die for her. But the Uttarakhand government evicted Dr G D Agarwal from the venue of his indefinite hunger strike in Kankhal-Haridwar on Tuesday, July 10. Things are still going the same way it was going on. They are shrugging off responsibilities and blaming each other.
Now we have decided that if nothing can be fixed then we will all commit suicide. We will sacrifice our lives for Ganga. We neither want to be an obstacle for the Centre nor to the progress of the country. Our demand is simple. Clean up the river Ganga.
What should we do as citizens to clean up the Ganges?
India has a national flag and Ganga is our national river. Now, the national flag has a national protocol. So, when Ganga was declared as the national river, a national protocol should also have been put in place. So, we need a national protocol act for the river.
Just like the previous government stopped a dam from being built on Ganga near the Himalayas, we want no more dams to be created. We just need a conclusive act. If it is made, then all the other work would be taken care of slowly.
PM Modi has only this much to do. I just want him to fulfil his promises. I am not a political worker, I don’t have anything do with any political party. But I have a beautiful bond with the rivers of this country. The water flowing through them is running in my blood. Ganga is like a mother to us. We have to take care of her. If my mother is in critical condition, I would look for a good doctor. But when Ganga is in critical condition, then why isn’t Modi looking for a good doctor to fix her.
What is the solution for the current clean water crisis that India is facing?
What the government thinks that linking the rivers would actually help in the face of the water crisis is not entirely correct. We have to link the minds of the people of India. If we all decide, then we can work towards the cleaning up of rivers and lakes. We are the ones polluting the water bodies, so if we make cleaning up rives a community-driven project, then I think we will be able to clean everything and there will be no more shortage.
The Logical Indian community believes that water crisis is the biggest threat that our country is reeling under. We hope that government bodies take up the responsibility and work on cleaning up the river soon.