Rakesh Tikait visits Swami Sivananda
Image courtesy: हिन्दुस्तान टीम, हरिद्वार
In June 2011 Swami Nigamananda died fasting for more than a hundred days. Later, Swami Gyan Swarup Sanand (formerly known as professor G D Agarwal the pioneer Environmental Engineer at IIT Kanpur and one of the initiators of Pollution Control Boards of our country) died in October 2018 fasting 112 days. Both gave their life for the life of a river – Ganga – demanding free and clean, ‘abiral’ and ‘nirmal’ flow of the river. In both cases the host place was Matri Sadan Ashram of Haridwar, where seers are on a long fight to save the river, to save nature. Time and again the governments promised to take action against quarrying along and around Ganges, construction of one after another dams and barrages, but never fulfilled. Before Swami Sanand several other saints of this ashrama died fasting to pressurise the govt on these issues, one saint, Gopal Das, ‘disappeared’. Now the eldest seer Swami Sivananda is on fast.
Naturally these never became an issue to political parties, though Ganga is no ordinary river, even if one disregards the ‘religious’ angle and looks at only the ‘material worth’. The country director (India) of World Bank, Mr Onno Ruhl in an article in 2014 wrote that — Ganga basin was home of 600 million Indians (at that time) and generated 40% of India’s GDP. Moreover, 450 million people were dependent on municipal drinking water coming from this river system. We also know that some 10-16 million people are dependent directly or indirectly on fish production in Ganga, if catch falls their livelihood suffers.
One of the follies of science and technology was the attempt to quantify the ‘price’ of nature or ecosystems. Now moneyed people or governments that look after their prosperity can think of ‘fair compensation’ of utilising (destroying) nature, preservation of some minimum ‘amount’ of ‘biodiversity’ which can easily be measured by some ‘index’, maintenance of some minimum amount of nature the garb of one of the vaguest possible words: sustainable. One of such paradoxes is called ‘environmental flow’ – a minimum flow rate of a river which can maintain ecological necessity. A tug of war in the legal field often crops up on this subject where experts differ on what exactly must be the amount of that ‘ecological flow’ of a river in some stretch from one specified point to another specified point.
But seers who stayed for years in the Himalayas and near the rivers know the mountains and rivers by their heart and they are seeing that the Ganga is dying. Also, peasant folk and boatmen, fishermen, who depend on the rivers were seeing the change and suffered. These seers are not those for whom religion means hate for ‘others’, who sprayed venom into the hearts of millions.
Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait visited Mati Sadan Ashram yesterday, February 10, and talked with the fasting seer Swami Sivananda. He expressed farmers’ support for this fight. It is significant. Because as of now, Tikait is not just a person or a leader of a BKU faction, he also represents the force that compelled the government that thought itself all powerful to retreat, at least for the time being.
When peasants movement, workers movement all merge with movement to save the nature, when nature gets the backing of the society that nature itself produced and nurtured, then movements will be more powerful.
Sandeep Banerjee is an activist who writes on political and socioeconomic issues and also on environmental issues. Some of his articles are published in Frontier Weekly. He lives in West Bengal, India. Presently he is a research worker. He can be reached at [email protected]