India’s Water Man Rajendra Singh has termed the five years of the NDA Government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi the “worst period for rivers in India, and for the Ganga in particular”.
The present government is seeking a fresh mandate when 365 districts in 17 states in the country are facing drought and the manifestos of none of the political parties, not just the BJP, have plans and vision for the rejuvenation of water bodies and the rivers, he adds bitterly.
“The worst case study in Indian political history in this regard is the Modi government, which even after creating a separate ministry for the Ganga, did precious little and continued to help the corporate sector in further exploitation of the water bodies and the rivers in the country,” alleges Singh, who has worked extensively in the semi-arid regions of Rajasthan in the eighties and the nineties to build johads(earthen check dams) with the support of local villagers to rejuvenate aquifers.
Recounting the struggles the Ganga warriors(those who are engaged in protecting and conserving the Ganga) had in the past, Rajendra Singh, born in Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut, says that PM Modi has no right to declare “Gangaji called him” to Varanasi.
“I don’t think he has any real love for the Ganga or any concern for its existence. If he had he would not have allowed those like Prof.G.D. Agarwal (Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand) to die after 111 days of fastingto demand immediate steps to protect the river,” he asserts. He rates the previous Manmohan Singh government higher in the matter of according priority to the conservation of the sacred river.
“I am a witness to all those developments,” says Rajendra Singh, who while talking to this Correspondent recounts that as the Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi had met both him and Prof. Agarwal and promised positive action to ensure “aviral” (uninterrupted) flow of the Ganga. “He persuaded Prof. Agarwal to give up his fast as he did with Anna Hazare to withdraw his agitation demanding legislation on Lokayukt. All this was only to give the impression that they all were listening to him”.
“The truth is that Modi’s actions as the Chief Minister of Gujarat led to the degeneration of all the rivers in that state,” Singh asserts.
“He went on making chemical zones in Gujarat at the cost of the rivers and water bodies,” Singh points out. “In 2014 Narendra Modi had given his word to me and Prof. Agarwal that if he came to power at the Centre his Government would do all they could to ensure environmental protection of the Ganga within three months. Thereafter there were no meetings. During his 111-day fast Prof. Agarwl wrote letters to Modi and the Ministers in the Union government but they were not responded to”.
The last of Prof. Agarwal’s letters on the Ganga to PM Modi(his third letter to Modi), in October 2018 read, “It was my expectation that you would go two steps forward and make special efforts for the sake of Gangaji because you went ahead and created a separate ministry for all works relating to Gangaji, but in the past four years all actions undertaken by your government have not at all been gainful to Gangaji and in her place gains are to be seen only for the corporate sector and several business houses.”
“Prof. Agarwal’s soul will curse Modi. He (Prof.Agarwal) had told me prior to his death. ‘I will go to Ram ji. I will plead with Ram ji to punish him (Modi)”, reveals Rajendra Singh. So far four saints, including Prof. Agarwal, have died after several days of fast. Another seemingly in the line is the young Swami Atmabhodanand who gave up water as well after entering 186th day of fasting two days back.
“Uma Bharti was made the Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Restoration in October 2018. She made a pledge to make the Ganga ‘aviral and nirmal’ or take ‘jal samadhi’. She was removed. Then Nitin Gatkari, who took over the Ministry promised the same”.
Accusing PM Modi and his Council of Ministers with apathy towards the Ganga, Rajendra Singh argues that otherwise the notification issued by the Ministry under Nitin Gadkari in October 2018 would not have given an assurance of only 20 per cent flow in the Ganga.
“Even G.D Agarwal, just before his death, was greatly agitated over it. His lament was that Ganga ji is an ‘A Grade’ river which should have a 62 per cent flow but they made it a ‘D Grade’ river allowing a much lower 20 per cent flow”.