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PM has done nothing for Ganga: Waterman

Rajendra Singh slams BJP's river politics

By Jayanta Basu in Calcutta

  • Published 9.01.19, 3:49 AM
  • Updated 9.01.19, 8:47 AM
Rajendra Singh, the Waterman of India
Rajendra Singh, the Waterman of India The Telegraph picture

Rajendra Singh, the Waterman of India, has accused Narendra Modi of doing “nothing” in the past four-and-a-half years for the critical Ganga and playing divisive politics with the national river.

“While blood circulation is the issue with the Ganga’s health, the government is treating its teeth,” the Magsaysay winner and former member of the National Ganga River Basin Authority told The Telegraph in Calcutta.

Singh was suggesting that emphasis had been laid on the beautification of the Ganga while real problems like pollution and encroachment had been put on the backburner.

Singh is visiting Bengal as part of his Ganga Sadbhavana Yatra, which will cover 2,250km in 11 states through which the Ganga flows.

“The biggest problem is this Prime Minister and his supporters have reinforced an impression that the Ganga is a river for Hindus. This is divisive politics. The Ganga is for all religions and faiths,” Singh said.

“Before becoming Prime Minister, Modi had said he is the son of the Ganga. He had made several promises for its rejuvenation and said he would fix the issue in three months. All of us were quite hopeful but he basically did nothing in the last four-and-a-half years for the Ganga, particularly about the stopping of four dams in the upper part of the river despite several representations,” the activist said.

“He has only given a ministry in the name of the Ganga and thousands of crores of rupees that led to more corruption and were hardly used for the benefit of the Ganga which is in a critical state,” he added.

The activist recalled how G.D. Agrawal, a scientist-turned-sadhu who had fought for the Ganga, lost his life fasting to make the river flow continuous and pollution-free.

Singh, however, praised former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for taking the initiative to stop three dams on the Ganga even when they were 60 per cent complete, and also for declaring a 150km stretch as “no development area” after environmentalists had made the demand.

Woh bolte nahin the, kaam karte the… woh concerned the, yeh concerned nahin hain (He talked little but did his work, he was concerned but not this one),” Rajendra Singh quipped, referring to the former Prime Minister and his successor.

According to Snehal Donde and Sanjay Agarwal, senior associates of Rajendra Singh, the Ganga Sadbhavana Yatra initiated from Gomukh in October is set to conclude on January 12 at Ganga Sagar. A national meeting will finalise the next course of action.

“We have started this yatra to emphasise the need for the revival of the Ganga’s natural flow, which should be continuous and pollution-free. Moreover, we also want to point out that all have equal rights over the Ganga,” Rajendra Singh said.

The major demands of the yatra include the immediate halt to four dams on the upper reaches of the river basin — one each on the Alakananda, Mandakini, Pinjal and Dhauliganga rivers — as well as a clear directive that no new dams and barrages would come up on the Ganga.