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Good Samaritan saving river Ken in Uttar Pradesh from ‘body blow’ 

‘Jal praharis’ carried out extensive awareness campaigns to educate locals about the importance of keeping the river clean.

lucknow Updated: Aug 19, 2017 15:10 IST
Anupam Srivastava
Anupam Srivastava
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Good Samaritan,River Ken,Uttar Pradesh
Santosh Kumar Gupta, a trader, appointed ‘jal praharis’ (water guards) who motivated poor people to perform the last rites at the cremation ground.

A few years ago, Santosh Kumar Gupta, 57, a leading trader in Banda, was disturbed to see the plight of river Ken in the district. Reason: Poor locals were giving water burial to the dead and this was causing pollution in the river and hazard for the eco-system.

EDUCATING PEOPLE
  • Santosh Kumar Gupta, a trader, formed an NGO – ‘Muktidham Shamshan Sthal and Kabristan Vikas Samiti.
  • He appointed ‘jal praharis’ (water guards) who motivated poor people to perform the last rites at the cremation ground.
  • The ‘jal praharis’ carried out extensive awareness campaigns to educate locals about the importance of keeping the river clean

The then district magistrate and divisional commissioner called on Gupta to come up with a solution to the issue.

Gupta took this as a challenge and formed an NGO – ‘Muktidham Shamshan Sthal and Kabristan Vikas Samiti. He appointed volunteers known as ‘jal praharis’ (water guards) who motivated poor people to perform the last rites at the cremation ground. Meanwhile, the organisation also set up a fund for cremation of the poor.

The ‘jal praharis’ carried out extensive awareness campaigns to educate locals about the importance of keeping the river clean. Gradually, when people came to know that the cremation won’t cost anything and they would be following all the rituals, they stopped disposing of bodies into the river. Even policemen, who used to give water burial to bodies, turned to the NGO for proper cremation of bodies.

Gupta said, “The area is full of poverty… people don’t have food to eat, leave aside disposing bodies as per rituals. To meet the challenge, we collected funds from local traders and constructed ghats, waiting room and used the money to arrange wood for the last rites of the poor.”

“However in 2013, we decided to take our campaign a step further. To make the disposal of bodies more eco-friendly, we approached the state government for setting up electric crematorium. And through MP, MLA and state finance commission funds, we arranged Rs 10 crore for the local municipality, which constructed two electric crematoriums. Now, we dispose of bodies in the most eco-friendly way,” said Gupta.

“Today, no one throws bodies into the river in Banda and this is a major change in 10 years. Both Hindus and Muslims call us for performing last rites,” he added.

Gupta said, “It gives me immense pleasure to see Ken clean as it’s the lifeline of Banda.”

First Published: Aug 19, 2017 15:10 IST