The opposition parties have come down heavily on the Narendra Modi government over the demise of Ganga activist GD Agarwal who was on a fast unto death over demands for the conservation of the river. While the Congress accused the government of being ‘insensitive’ to the cause, the Aam Aadmi Party said that the government was ‘waiting for him to fie’.
Agarwal, baptised as Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand, was a former IIT-Kanpur professor and the first member secretary of the Central Pollution Control Board. Following his demise, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said that river Ganga has become more polluted now than it was in 2014 and expressed hope that the sacrifice of Agarwal will provide a vision to the government and sought to know if the Namami Ganga programme was just another ‘jumla’ by PM Narendra Modi.
“Modi ji said river Ganga is calling him but it is even more polluted than it was in 2014. Rs 22,000 crore was allotted for cleaning it, not even 1/4th of it has been used. Is Namami Gange also a ‘jumla’? Maybe GD Agarwalji’s sacrifice will provide a vision to this blind government,” Surjewala said.
Senior Congress leader and former Environment minister Jairam Ramesh expressed anguish over the demise of Agarwal. He said that Agarwal was an indefatigable crusader not only for Nirmal Ganga but also for Aviral Ganga. Ramesh said that he had worked with Agarwal and incorporated some of his suggestions on Ganga.
“I salute his commitment and dedication, his scholarship and learning, his faith and passion,” he said.
AAP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh said that he had asked the government to save him, but the government wanted him to die.
“Those seeking votes on his name could not save him,” Singh said in a tweet.
गंगापुत्र स्वामी सानंद का निधन हो गया,पिछले 100 दिनो से अनशन पर थे, केंद्र की संवेदनहीन सत्ता उनके मरने का इंतज़ार करती रही, मैंने संसद में सरकार से उनका जीवन बचाने की प्रार्थना की थी लेकिन गंगा के नाम पर वोट लेने वाले गंगापुत्र को नही बचा सके। pic.twitter.com/6ayXCQYfZk
— Sanjay Singh AAP (@SanjayAzadSln) October 11, 2018
Accepted almost all his demands: Gadkari
Meanwhile, the government has said that most of the demands of Agarwal on the cleanliness of Ganga were accepted. Water Resources and Ganga River Rejuvenation Minister Nitin Gadkari said that an e-flow gazette notification was issued on Tuesday to this effect.
“We have accepted almost all his demands. One demand was to ensure minimum environmental flow for Ganga river at various locations and we have come out with a notification,” Gadkari said.
The minister said that Agarwal’s second demand was to bring a legislation to protect the river. “The legislation has been sent to Cabinet for approval,” he said.
“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% of his demands and we need him and he should stop his fast,” he added.
Former Ganga rejuvenation and water resources minister Uma Bharti said that she is shocked by his demise. “I had feared that this would happen. I have informed Nitin Gadkari and others about his demise,” she said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also expressed his condolences and said Agarwal’s passion for Ganga cleaning will always be remembered.
Saddened by the demise of Shri GD Agarwal Ji. His passion towards learning, education, saving the environment, particularly Ganga cleaning will always be remembered. My condolences.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) October 11, 2018
Agarwal was on a fast since June 22 demanding measures be taken to clean the river Ganga and a pollution-free and uninterrupted flow. He passed away at a hospital in Rishikesh following a cardiac arrest yesterday. He was 85.