The ‘Champion of Earth’ Narendra Modi, while in Varanasi to file his nomination for the 2014 general elections, stated, “I feel as if neither anyone has sent me here nor any one has invited me here, but its Mother Ganga that has called me here, and this experience feels like how a child returns to his mother’s embrace”. Since then, a lot has changed – not for the good – and a lot has been revealed about Narendra Modi – for the good of the nation. One of the major revelations about Modi has been that he is more than willing to use his mother for public relations exercises: be it his biological mother, like during the demonetisation exercise; or his spiritual mother. However, reality is starkly opposite to what is portrayed – Ganga is in a dismal state.
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In India, Ganga is considered as a mother, and for the right reasons: it traverses a course of approx. 2500 km; its basin constitutes 26% of the land mass of India; the river is considered valuable for it resources; it is also one of the most sacred rivers in the country; and it is a lifeline for millions who live along the river belt and utilise its vast expanse of resources. But for the BJP it holds a completely different importance – it’s a political capital, to be utilised during contingencies i.e. when the policy of lying does not work. How else would anyone explain the mistreatment that the river has received during the BJP’s tenure.
It’s been more than four years since the inception of the Modi government and the reports of its deeds – read misdeeds – have started pouring in. Same for Ganga. In June 2014, like any other Modi government’s policy or scheme, the flag-ship Namami Gange Programme was launched with a lot fanfare, and Rs. 20,000 were allotted to its cause, of which approx. Rs. 4000 crores have been spent as of now. However, as per Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), organisation under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, the pollution in the river has gone up compared to 2013 levels. The level of Biological Dissolved Oxygen (higher the BOD level, the faster oxygen present in water would deplete) has increased, while the level of Dissolved Oxygen (high DO level means the water is less polluted) has gone down. As per scientific parameters, the level of BOD should be below 3 milligrams per litre (mg/L), whereas DO should be above 4 milligrams per litre. If BOD goes above 3 mg/L, the water is considered unsuitable for domestic purposes, let alone drinking. As per 2017 CPCB report, of the 80 sites that it monitors BOD level was above 3 mg/L at 36 sites (compared to 31 in 2013) and between 2-3 mg/L at 30 sites (compared to 24 in 2013). It must be noted that BOD levels between 2-3 mg/L is also not suitable for consumption, unless treated. Therefore, it means that 66/80 sites have water that is unsuitable for human consumption. This also reflects in the National Green Tribunal’s order, which clearly stated, “the (Ganga) water is unfit for drinking and bathing”, and it does not comply with the Right to life of people using Ganga’s water. This is direct result of the Modi government’s either lack of concern or incompetency, or both. The increasingly dismal state of the Ganga is understandable when we take into consideration the fact that 80 percent of the pollution of Ganga is from municipal waste, and the Modi government has failed to prevent - with over 12,000 MLD (million litres per day) of sewage being dumped into the Ganga across 11 states, the present capacity of sewage treatment is a mere 4000 MLD and of which only 1000 MLD is functional.
Time and again the Modi government has been caught lying and duping people of India with ‘Jumla politics’. The Ganga does not just have cultural or religious significance for the people of India, but it is also a major factor when it comes to livelihood of the people and the ecological balance of a major chunk of India. The demand for action was personified by the late Prof. G. D. Agarwal, who went on fast-unto-death to ‘save the Ganga’ and to make sure that ‘Ganga putra’ gives its due importance to his mother Ganga, but little did he know that he would have to make the ultimate sacrifice just to get a tweet out of the ‘Ganga putra’. A recent RTI has revealed that the PM sat on the three letters sent to him by Prof. G. D. Agarwal, and chose not to respond. So much for Mother Ganga and its well-wishers, Mr. Modi. Prof. G. D. Agarwal, who headed the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at IIT Kanpur, must have taught hundreds of students about the importance of environment but he could not explain it to the student of ‘Entire Political Science’, also known as Pradhan Sevak. Three letters and 112 days later, Prof. Agarwal’s body succumbed to the severe repercussions of a fast-unto-death but his death is his evidence that his will and resolve did not, and it is such resolutions that keep India running, hearty and healthy. We pledge to keep the spirit of ‘saving the Ganga’ alive, we pledge to fight on, now more than ever – for Ganga, for G. D. Agarwal.