I was there today evening to hear the experiences of the ‘Waterman’ Rajendra Singh and Janak Daftary who were part of the recent Ganga Yatra, which saw two teams from opposite ends converge at Ganhar near Varanasi. It was a motley crowd of around 10 people who un-filled the large Babubhai Chinai Room at IMC.
Pollution, encroachment and exploitation were enumerated by Rajendraji as the key drivers of Ganga’s sad state of affairs, which I may almost identify as demise. He discussed in detail the various measures (half hearted at best) since 1985 when Rajiv Gandhi decided to announce the Ganga Action Plan more as a political strategy to as late as last year when the Manmohan Singh government decided to give the status of National River to the Ganga (another political strategy which yielded as good results as in 1985).
In the beginning he also highlighted the deep connections of Mumbai with the Ganga even as we receive no water from the river and are as further can be. He shared how visitors from Mumbai were the largest category of visitors visiting the Gaumukh and Char Dham Yatra as also maybe among those taking a dip at various places along the river.
This and his other answer to a question about involving the politicians along the Ganga were the chief areas of interest to me which I also raised during the Q&A. Rajendraji expressed his inability to understand the mind and the working of a politician which was primarily driven by the votes he gets. He did not mention the notes(bucks) but I would presume that to be the other flip side.
My views during the discussion were linked to people from Mumbai being one of the largest contingents to Gaumukh and yet such an event in Mumbai drawing only ten people for discussion. A lot of those present in the room were not the kind to be paying any serious religious obeisance to the Ganga but still having a deep sense of reverence and responsibility towards her. How many of those who travel the Char Dhams and visit Gaumukh and take dips are the ones who find discussions on the state of the Ganga relevant and would be doing something to improve the state of the river? Where is the aastha? and who are these people?
The need of the hour is to take the discussion about the Ganga to far beyond the thousands who take interest currently and into the minds and lives of lakhs and crores who currently only treat her as a ritual or an adventure sport. The politician along the Ganga or anywhere in the country for that matter is very closely in touch with his/her voter and knows that most of these people dont give a damn about what, who or how the Ganga is. And once we are able to change the state of mind of millions then reviving the Ganga will not be difficult.
A massive communication campaign is needed to highlight the fact that the National River has indeed become a sewer and everyone who has been involved in any ritual which invokes the Ganga needs to be clearly involved in discussions surrounding issues like grey water recycling (the sewage which defies the Ganga comes grey water) and energy conservation (the dams that devastate the upper reaches of Ganga are for generating electricity)
Pushpa Vijula one of the participants opined that most people in Mumbai are so caught up with the daily roti and kapda that there was no time for giving time to these things. To which my strong retort was that my mirror was not shown at the people in that category. It was clearly shown at the rich and educated classes from all castes and tribes and especially the Marwari’s and Gujrati’s a lot of whom are patrons of IMC and have enough time to spend time in casinos around the world and money on expensive liquor and cruises and multiple char dham yatra trips but will not spend time to come for such a talk and much less spend a dime on supporting organisations and individuals who support the cause.
The need of the hour is to clearly bring a sense of shame and responsibility to these shameless people, a lot of whom also have an exaggerated sense of India’s greatness in coffee table discussions but are clearly the cause of the lack of any greatness left in Indian culture.