Ganga activist GD Agarwal reportedly criticised Centre in ‘final video’ before death
Followers of Ganga activist Guru Das Agarwal have released a video, reportedly recorded about an hour before his death on October 11, showing the scientist-turned-seer on the hospital bed questioning the central government’s notification on the river’s environmental flow.
The video was released on Friday, the day the Supreme Court (SC) refused shifting his body from AIIMS, Rishikesh, to his Matri Sadan ashram in Haridwar for post-death rituals. The ruling came hours after the Uttarakhand high court had ordered the state police to supervise the body’s transfer after accepting a plea on behalf of the seer’s followers who wanted to pay their last respects to the 86-year-old former IIT professor, popular among his disciples as Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand.
Members of the ashram said he had passed away soon after the video was shot.
“The government has deceived GD Agarwal ji. A lot of officials from the water ministry would come to meet but he never got any replies to his questions in writing. His demand for aviral (free-flowing) Ganga was not met even after Narendra Modi came to power promising us that Ganga will go back to its pristine glory. They have done nothing,” said Shivanand Swami, an ashramite.
In the video, Agarwal is seen asking about the scientific assessment on which the government had determined the e-flow numbers for its notification.
“The government has said the minimum virgin flow in the river from November to March will be only 20%. Why not 50%? Unless the government gives a scientific explanation for this, why should we accept it? Between June and September they have stipulated the minimum flow to be 30%, which means when there is naturally more water in the river, the minimum e-flow has to be the highest as per the notification. How stupid is that? When there is more flow, the e-flow stipulation should be lower,” Agarwal is seen explaining when he is interrupted by one of the doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Rishikesh.
The activist had led a fast-unto-death protest over demands to shut down the hydroelectric projects on Ganga, banning of mining activities in the Ganga basin, and the draft prepared by him and others be passed by Parliament. He died on October 11 — the 112th day of his fast.
He also said the e-flow “cannot be uniform” everywhere or in all seasons. “It’s a scientific concept. The IIT consortium had determined a method for place-specific flows. I don’t think the government should have taken it upon themselves to determine the e-flow when the IITs have already made recommendations,” he says in the video. He also says that more monks will sacrifice their lives now. “I think they (government) want blood. We will give them blood.”
“The government penalises common people but not dams. It very smartly focuses on small pollution offences and not the big issues facing the river,” said Mallika Bhanot of Ganga Ahvaan, an NGO.
Professor Vinod Tare of IIT Kanpur, who headed the IIT consortium formed in 2010, responded to the contents in the video to say that the e-flow is determined based on season and place which Agarwal understood. IITs’ reports recommend more than 50% flows in many upper reaches of the Ganga.
Water resources secretary UP Singh said, “Activists can also ask why the e-flow is not 100%? The notification is not cast in stone. We can certainly modify the notification at a later stage. For now people should understand it’s a positive step.”