A month after environmentalist GD Agrawal died fasting for a clean Ganga, an RTI query has revealed that the Prime Minister's Office received three letters from him demanding specific steps to be taken to improve the state of the river, but it failed to take action.
According to a report in The Wire, in its RTI response to Ujjawal Krishnam, an activist with the NGO Citizens for Justice and Peace, the PMO acknowledged it received two of Agarwal's letters dated 13 and 23 June. The Indian Express reported that a third letter was also sent, which predates these two.
The PMO, in its reply, said that the letters were “forwarded for action as appropriate to the Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation” on 20 August. However, the activist did not receive any response from the government.
The 87-year-old former IIT Kanpur professor-turned-environmentalist-turned monk had been on a fast unto death for over three months, when he died at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Rishikesh on 11 October.
Better known as Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand, Agarwal had been demanding the passage of Ganga Protection Act, scrapping of all proposed and under-construction hydropower projects on the Ganga, a total ban on sand mining in the river-bed of the Ganga in Haridwar and formation of a council to look into issues related to the river. The government did not accede to any of his demands.
He had also undertaken a series of fasts in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013 as well around similar demands. It was the month-long fast that he undertook in 2010 that led the then environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, to cancel the three hydro projects on the Bhagirathi river and also to declare the Bhagirathi region from Gaumukh to Uttarakashi an eco-sensitive zone.
Activist wanted Modi's assurance
Agrawal's aides claim that he wrote four letters addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi but he did not receive a response to even one. Suresh Raikwar, a close aide of the Ganga activist and another leading member of the Ganga Sadbhavana Yatra said, "Professor Agrawal would have broken his fast if the prime minister had personally assured him."
The Wire report also quotes Swami Shivanand Saraswati, Agarwal’s spiritual guru and the founder president of Matri Sadan, the ashram that was Agarwal’s home as saying, "The letters were very clearly addressed to the Prime Minister. They demanded that he take action, instead he just washed his hands off it and left Swamiji to die."
The report further quotes Agrawal's letters where he refers to Modi as his 'younger brother' and accuses him of not acting on his letters. In his third and the final letter to Modi, he wrote, "It was my expectation that you would go two steps forward and make special efforts for the sake of Ganga ji because you went ahead and created a separate ministry for all works relating to Ganga ji, but in the past four years all actions undertaken by your government have not at all been gainful to Ganga ji and in her place gains are to be seen only for the Corporate Sector and several business houses. Till now you have only thought on the point of earning profits from Ganga ji."
Now his aides and monks of the Matri Sadan vow insist that they are going to keep up the pressure to have river Ganga cleaned. "We are acting as a matter of principle. If we fail to act now, what explanation will we offer to future generations?" Swami Shivanand, an aide of Agrawal said.
Updated Date: Nov 21, 2018 11:31 AM