I am writing this letter not only to inform you of a monumental decision taken by a person I regard highly but also to let you know about him and the context.
Professor G.D. Agarwal, now about 80 but in robust health, has been residing in Chitrakoot for almost 20-25 years now. He has taught Environmental Science in IIT Kanpur for a number of years. He also served as a Dean at IIT Kanpur for a number of years. After that, at the request of Nanaji Deshmukk he served as a faculty member of the Mahatma Gandhi Rural University set up by Nanaji in Chitrakoot. He worked here without accepting any pay in an honorary capacity as a service to the country. He is one of those legendary teachers whom their students remember even after years. He has inspired many most prominent among them was late Anil Agarwal who founded Centre of Science and Environment, which is now being looked after by Sunita Narain. He was founder member secretary of the Pollution Control Board. But above all Prof. Agarwal is man of deep understanding and high integrity inspiring hundreds of his students the world over.
Prof. Agarwal has a deep understanding of Indian tradition and environment and thus has a very different perceptions about most environment related issues, more rooted and appropriate for our country and the world as well. He has been deeply disturbed, like many others, about the manner in which Ganga has been treated by successive governments over the years. We have been tampering with the Ganga, in particular the Bhagirathi (tehri dam is only one among many glaring examples) resulting it in only running like a trickle many times (because of the damning of the flow). At times there has been no water even in haridwar. This is a severe blow on the faith of a large majority of people in this country. And faith is a big thing. It gives tremendous strength to cope with adversities in life. It unites people. Dr. agarwal is much pained by what we are doing to the Ganga and the implications it may have on our people and our country. Having done the damage that we have done by building the Tehri dam he feels now at least the Ganga between Gomukh and Uttarkashi should be left alone, but we are tampering with it even in those areas. He has also been very disturbed about the river linking scheme of our government(s).
Unfortunately on such issues of so called ‘development’ all governments, all political parties (Congress, Samajwadi, BJP, the Communists) have similar views and hence the schemes go on undisturbed, with change in governments. It is almost a global phenomena – the way our elite, the powerful perceive ‘development’.
Under the circumstances he has decided to go on fast unto death from June 17th (Ganga Dusserra). He will find a suitable place in uttarkashi and start his fast from that place. He has written a letter to a few people close to him informing them of this decision and the reasons thereof asking them to pray for him to help him in his resolve. Dr. Agarwal is not a publicity seeker. He has not reached his decision in a hurry but after deliberating and contemplating about it for a long time.
I am writing this letter only to inform you and to request you to, if possible, try and talk about the reasons behind the decision of Prof. Agarwal with people you know. Faith has become a dirty word but is it so? Ganga is not only an environmental issue but much bigger than that. I know for a fact that during the month of Shravan (august- Sept) when people come top Haridwar to pick up Ganga water and carry it to different shiv temples – these people have amongst them not only upper caste Hindus but the so called scheduled clastes as well as a sprinkling of Muslims amonst the devotees! It is a strange country – this India _ we do not seem to know it fully as most of us have become alientated (thanks to the kind of education we have received).
Pawan Kumar Gupta