‘Gange cha Yamune chaiva
Narmade Sindhoo Kaveri
Jale ‘smin sannidhim kuru’
(‘O Ganga, O Yamuna, O Godavari, O Saraswati, O Narmada, O Sindhu, O Kaveri, please become present in this water.’)
Hindus have been starting their day with this mantra since the time of the Vedas and Upanishads. These seven rivers are considered the holiest among almost 1,000 big and small rivers we have in this country. Unfortunately for years we have been exploiting these rivers without giving any thought to their rejuvenation. The NDA has now changed that perception: It has created a separate ministry for the rejuvenation of the Ganga and in a big symbolic act, Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose Varanasi as his Lok Sabha constituency for the parliamentary elections.
However, in its eagerness to save the Ganga, the Centre should not forget the other rivers of India. Like the Ganga, most of these rivers are in dire straits and must be cleaned and rejuvenated. The NDA must realise that all rivers are holy and are important to those who reside on their banks. For example, a person in Telangana would emotionally relate to the Godavari or Krishna better than she would do to the Ganga.
As an MP, I could sense that my colleagues from the non-Ganga basin areas were not very happy with the government’s attention only towards the Ganga during a debate in the House. None of us are against the cleaning up of the river or questioning its religious importance. But, we demand that the Centre not discriminate among the rivers.
It is well known that huge quantities of untreated sewage is choking India’s rivers and threatening the lives of millions of poor people. The Yamuna, which flows through Delhi, is known as a “dying goddess”. The Musi in Hyderabad is almost dead. It has now become a drain. The same is the case with the Vrishabhavathi in Bangalore, the Mithi in Mumbai, the Jhelum in Srinagar and the Cooum in Chennai. The condition of the Sabarmati in Ahmedabad is slightly better as it was recharged using water from the Narmada.
The Centre must come up with an inclusive, all-India plan to rejuvenate and save our dying rivers. Two issues have to be addressed to achieve this. One, heavy industries must be moved away from these river banks and modern techniques must be used to prevent untreated sewage flowing into our rivers and lakes.
More than `50,000 crore has been spent on cleaning the Ganga since Independence. Sadly, the money has been siphoned off by various vested interests. Two, there is a need to study why there are frequent floods and droughts and what measures can be taken to prevent such extreme occurrences. This problem, according to some, can be solved by linking rivers. Such a method is probably suitable for a few rivers and states, but a serious water policy, rather than water distribution policy, is the need of the hour.
What we now need is a pan-Indian approach from the Centre. This is because all rivers are equally precious for the people who depend on them for their survival. Let’s not have a new caste system or a hierarchy among our rivers. Saving and rejuvenating the Ganga will be appreciated only if the government extends the same courtesy to all our rivers.
Kalvakuntla Kavitha is an MP from Nizamabad,Telangana
The views expressed by the author are personal