Swamiji’s demands haven’t been met, Modi govt is lying: GD Agarwal’s aides
“One of his demands was that the water flow in the Ganges be restored to 80% of its original flow. Swamiji was demanding a stop to ongoing and any new construction of dams,” said Rajendra Singh
Two close aides of deceased environmentalist GD Agarwal has categorically refuted claims that the demands of the Ganga crusader had been taken care of, as they accused the Minister of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation Nitin Gadkari of “lying through his teeth.”
“One of his main demands was that the water flow in the Ganges be restored to 80 per cent of its original flow. For this, Swamiji (Agarwal) was demanding a stop to ongoing and any new construction of dams,” Rajendra Singh, a well-known water conservationist and a close aide of GD Agarwal, told National Herald from Rishikesh.
“The e-gazette notification issued by the Ministry of Water Resources on October 9 asks the project developers and authorities to maintain the environmental flow. It doesn’t talk about halting construction activities along the Ganges,” said Singh, who runs Tarun Bharat Sangh, a water conservation and management non-profit in Alwar.
“Swamiji saw the e-gazette and just threw it on the floor. He was of the view that the government was trying to fool us by taking out that order,” said Singh, who is also part of the Ganga Sadbhavana Yatra which was started by Agarwal on September 29 to press the authorities to accept his demands.
Singh informed NH that other members of the Ganga Sadbhavna Yatra, including himself, would continue to agitate till January 14.
Agarwal had been on a hunger strike since June 22 to force the government to accept his demands—environmental flow of the Ganges be maintained to curb pollution, the encroachments by the Ganges be removed and a legislation be introduced in Parliament to deal with pollution in the Ganges. The 86-year-old professor-turned-environmental activist succumbed to his hunger strike on October 11, prompting condolence messages from the Union Water Resources Minister and the Prime Minister among others.
Agarwal had also written three letters to the Prime Minister informing him about their demands. The last letter was written during his indefinite fast.
In a letter that he had written to PM Modi on June 13, Agarwal had asked for the stalling of all ongoing and proposed construction of hydroelectric power plants on the Alaknanda, Dhauliganga, Nandakini, Pinder and Mandakini rivers, all of them tributaries of the Ganges. In the same letter, he called for an immediate halt to deforestation and the constitution of the Ganga Bhakt Parishad to work for the welfare of the Ganges.
At a press conference convened by Gadkari in the wake of Agarwal’s death on Thursday, the Union Minister had claimed that “70-80%” of Agarwal’s demands had been met.
“He had some demands related to (upcoming) hydro-power projects (on river Ganga). We are trying to bring all stakeholders together and sort the issue at the earliest. I had also written a letter to him stating that we have accepted nearly 70-80% and that we need him and he should stop his fast," Gadkari had said.
The minister had also claimed that as per Agarwal’s another demand, the legislation to curb pollution in the Ganges had been sent to the Union Cabinet, following which it would be tabled in Parliament. Gadkari also cited the October 9 e-gazette at the press conference, which states guidelines to project companies and authorities to maintain environmental flow in the Ganges.
Agarwal’s supporters, however, are not impressed.
“What’s the point of tweeting out condolence messages now? He had been demanding a written assurance from the Prime Minister that his demands would be met. He would have broken his fast if the PM had personally assured him,” said Suresh Raikwar, another close aide of Agarwal and another leading member of the Ganga Sadbhavna Abhiyaan.
Suresh informed that aides of Swamiji had to sit on a fast in front of AIIMS earlier in the day, after being refused permission to view his corpse.
“It was only after our sit-in protest that we were allowed inside,” he said, adding that Agarwal had pledged to donate his body to the hospital after his death.