New Delhi: Environmentalist G.D. Agarwal who had been on a fast to ‘save the Ganga’ since June 22, died on Thursday. A former faculty member at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, Agarwal had given up drinking water on October 9 and was in a hospital in Rishikesh. He breathed his last at around 1:30 pm.
“I was with him. He was weak but reasonably okay. He was talking. And all of a sudden, he left us. Doctors say that it was because of a heart attack,” said Prem, a caretaker who had been with Agarwal for years.
For several years, Agarwal had been demanding that steps be taken to make the Ganga ‘aviral’ (free flowing). He wanted the government to stop the construction of all hydroelectric projects along the tributaries of the Ganga and the enactment of the Ganga Protection Management Act.
When his demands were not heard by the government, Agarwal began a fast unto death on June 22. On October 9 he gave up water.
Despite Narendra Modi having pledged on the banks of the Ganga in Varanasi that he would take immediate steps to ensure that the Ganga is cleaned, the government paid little attention to the fasting environmentalist whose demands pertained to the health of the Ganga.
The Uttarakhand government on October 10 forcibly moved Agarwal to AIIMS Rishikesh where tests revealed shortage of potassium and increased levels of dehydration. Early this morning, Agarwal was informed that he will be moved to AIIMS, Delhi.
“He did not want to go. He told them that he doesn’t want to go. His condition suddenly deteriorated after he heard that they will forcibly move him to Delhi,” said Prem.
Despite the Narendra Modi government’s announcement on cleaning the Ganga, several reports have shown that no significant action has been taken to clean the river. A parliamentary estimates committee which evaluated the government’s efforts to rejuvenate the Ganga concluded that the government’s actions have been far from enough.
“The scenario clearly indicates the sorry state of affairs with regard to the implementation of the programmes relating to sewer projects/works in various States, meant for treatment of sewage and thereby addressing to the issue of dumping of sewage in the water bodies,” the report said.
A performance audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) also found deficiencies and shortfalls.
“National Mission for Clean Ganga could not finalise the long-term action plans even after more than six and half years of signing of agreement with the consortium of Indian Institutes of Technology. As a result, National Mission for Clean Ganga does not have a river basin management plan even after a lapse of more than eight years of National Ganga River Basin Authority notification,” the CAG report said.