The fact that we failed to recognize GD Agrawal’s contribution to India’s environmental movement is not acceptable.
Octogenarian environmentalist GD Agrawal died on October 11 on the 111th day of his fast to the save the Ganga. It is a national tragedy that he was martyred in a cause to which he dedicated his entire life. There have been unfortunate attempts to link his tragic death with the alleged inaction of the Government of the day despite the environmentalist’s demands, which has riposted with pointing to what the Opposition when it was in power did or did not do despite repeated urging also from Agrawal. This is as ironical as it gets because both sides are wrong. And both equally guilty in some measure though it must be understood by those trying to make his sad death a mobilisation tool that all administrations have to balance completing and sometimes contradictory demands from the people who elect them.
Yes, Agrawal died at a time when the BJP-led NDA Government has undertaken the ambitious Namami Gange project to clean the sacred river for which Rs 20,000 crore has been allocated but not even 25 per cent of it has been spent. Equally, the Congress in the past, despite Manmohan Singh having come in for some praise from the Ganga crusader Agrawal for his controversial decision to stop all construction on the Bhagirathi and Lohari Nagpala hydel power projects, too has fallen woefully short of keeping its promises to Agrawal and others activists like him. Much is also being made of the three letters he wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi with great expectations given the latter’s avowed commitment to the cause of the sacred river. While it certainly true that Agrawal was disappointed by the current regime’s performance which was not up to the standards he had wanted, he is also known to have had higher and better expectations from the Modi regime than its predecessors. Especially, since Modi had set up a separate Ministry for cleaning the Ganga. The civil-engineer-turned-environmental-seer was a real grass-roots crusader who believed in action on the ground. One did not have to agree with everything he said to have immense respect for him. The lack of due recognition of his contribution to India’s environmental movement which more media-savvy activists have garnered is a shame.
Agrawal died as he lived, uncompromising on his demands for which his last fast ended with his immortal soul having been freed from its mortal coil on October 11. His charter was clear: Cancel all hydel power projects under construction on the Alakananda, Dhauliganga, Nandakini, Pindar and Mandakini; nix all new proposals for power plants; ensure a complete stoppage of illegal sand mining in Haridwar and its surrounds.
Writer: The Pioneer
Source: The Pioneer