Noted environmentalist, G D Agarwal,87, a former faculty member at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, who had turned a seer and was known as Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanan, passed away after a heart attack. He was reportedly shifted to AIIMS Rishikesh on Wednesday after being on fast for 109 days, according to NDTV.
Agarwal was on fast unto death since June 22, to pressure the government into take steps tp save the Ganga river from the impact of hydro power projects and mining. Two days ago, he had stopped drinking water.
The environmental crusader had thrice earlier gone on hunger strike to protest against the Loharinag Pala hydroelectric project in Uttarakhand, which was eventually scrapped, according to magazine Down to Earth.
Agarwal, who had written several letters to ministers in-charge of rejuvenating the Ganga and to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had told The Indian Express, that 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.
“If the draft is enacted by Parliament, most of the problems of Gangaji would be resolved for a long time. The present government can use their brute majority and whip it. I will break my fast the day it is passed. This is my last responsibility. If they are able to get it passed before the draft passed in the next session, then good. If not… many people die unhappy. It’s time for the future generation to take responsibility for the holy river,” he had said.
Agarwal's death, which is a big setback to movement to save the Ganga and its tributaries, is a saga of neglect and apathy by the authorities concerned. In an interview with Times Of India, the crusader said all his appeals had gone unheeded.
“We have sent several request letters to the Prime minister and Water Resources Ministry but nobody has bothered to reply. I have been on fast for past 109 days and now I have decided to take my tapasya forward and sacrifice my life for the Ganga river. My fast will finish with my death,” he said.
Accordign to The Wire, a performance audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had also found deficiencies and shortfalls in the Ganga rejuvenation programme.
“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.