ABOUT GANGA SATYAGRAHA
Three First Steps of Ganga Satyagraha
What our modern preachers and teachers have failed to teach us about the importance of pure air, pure water, soil, trees, herbs, etc. of Mother Nature for us which the Shanti Mantra, “Om… antariksham shantih, prathvi shantih, aapha shantih, osadhay shantih, vanaspatayah shantih ….” teaches us, Corona Virus-Fear has taught us about the importance of hygiene and sanitation within a few months. The forced lockdown has cleaned mother Ganga due to stoppage of industrial effluents, sand mining activities, Ganga polluting unethical business and ritualistic activities, etc., which our decades of Ganga cleaning/ rejuvenating activities have failed to do. Unfortunately and deplorably, after the forced lockdown is removed, the river hostile activities would certainly start working with much greater renewed vigor. Renowned scientist Stephen Hawking rightly claimed that modern civilization does not know how to avoid misuse of science and technology based on human selfishness, and stupidity based on greed for wealth and lust for luxuries, etc. Towards the last phase of his life, he warned rightly that life on Earth is at risk from a sudden nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus, global warming, or other dangers humans have not yet thought of.
Since our leaders, under the spell of the glamour of the present form of development of modern civilization which Mahatma Gandhi considered to be satanic and a nine days wonder only, are showing great apathy to the great noble cause of the rejuvenation and preservation of our great river mothers and their sources our great mountains and forests even though they know its great importance for our masses, future generations and the dumb and deaf life-world, let us create a Gandhian Mass Satyagraha for this great noble cause. It is now the only surest means available for us to realize our invaluable noble goal. Likeminded people throughout the country should sincerely try to create the movement in their own region, considering Mahatma Gandhi's Salt Satyagraha as the ideal.
Let us take first the following three steps to begin with:
Since dumping of industrial effluents into our river mothers is the Number One Direct Enemy of our river mothers, to begin with let us prepare a list of industries which dump their effluents into our great river mothers and appeal to masses to boycott use of their products after giving them some reasonable time to take the necessary steps for stopping dumping of their effluents, treated or untreated, into our river mothers.
Let us also prepare a list of major hotels and Mathas / Ashrams which dump their sewage directly into our river mothers and appeal to masses to boycott them after giving some reasonable time to do the needful to stop discharging their sewage, treated or untreated, into our river mothers.
We must also create mass awareness against the hospitals which dump their wastes into our river mothers.
Let us also solemnly resolve to do the needful whatsoever possible to do individually and collectively along with likeminded persons to put moral pressure on the government for the acceptance and implementation of the following recommendations of our Save Ganga movement as soon as possible. They are the result of the churning discussions of many Save Ganga and Save Himalayas Seminars/ Meetings/ Workshops held in different parts of our country in the course of our Save Ganga Movement:
- The National River Ganga Rejuvenation and Preservation Act: We must declare mother Ganga constitutionally as our National River with statutory provisions that ensures due respect and protection to her considering her National River status, ensuring (a) Zero Discharge into the river, (b) Adequate Environment Flow with sediments in the river and (c) Protection of the river's floodplain.We must get passed without any delay in the Parliament ‘The Ganga Act’ prepared by Justice Giridhar Malaviyaji’s Committee, making the necessary changes in it, if necessary, to ensure policies of (a) Zero Discharge into the river and its tributaries, (b) Adequate Environment Flow of Natural Fresh Water with Sediments in the river and (c) Protection of the Active Flood Plains of the River.
- The Himalayan Ganga Basin Rejuvenation and Preservation Act: We must declare the highly earthquake-prone, eco-fragile and ecologically, aesthetically and religiously invaluable Uttarakhand region of the Ganga Basin 'Ecologically Fragile and a Sanctuary for Himalayan Flora and Fauna', and its rivers 'Wild Rivers' and take all the necessary steps to protect them and the natural eco-systems they support. We must also declare this religiously invaluable Uttarakhand region to be our National Spiritual Heritage Zone, and must not allow any eco-hostile tourism in the name of Tirtha Yatra.
- The River Rights Act: We must have a law protecting River Rights, ensuring throughout the country (a) Policy of Zero Discharge into Rivers, (b) Policy of Maintenance of Adequate Environment Flow in Rivers and (c) Policy of Protection of Active Flood Plains of Rivers.
- The Tree Rights Act: Considering the great importance of trees for us in the context of the impending catastrophic global ecological crisis, we must have a law ensuring throughout the country the policy of promoting reforestation wherever it is possible with zero deforestation as far as possible with Zero killing of the trees older than 50years except only as a last resort for any essential services.
Once we have the laws, we can take the help of our courts to fight various enemies of our river mothers for their protection and preservation.
Let the likeminded teacher and student Satyagrahis of an educational institute find out (a) whether the chemical wastes of any scientific lab of their institute enters directly into any river or water body or indirectly through sewage water and (b) whether the sewage of their institute directly or indirectly enters into any river or water body, and create the necessary awareness to put moral pressure on the authorities against it.
Normally the actions and inactions of our industrialists, politicians and bureaucrats are blamed to be the main cause of the slow death of our great river mothers and their sources, our great mountains and forests. But we consider the gap between what our teachers and preachers teach and what they practice to be a greater evil, and their failure to provide critical character building ethics education in our education system to be its root cause.
Let us sincerely try to create the necessary awareness to put moral pressure on the concerned authorities to make our educational institutions environmental friendly as far as it is possible. It would be a major step in the right direction to inspire/ influence the students to lead environment friendly life later in their family as well as professional life. Let us remember the valuable message of Mahatma Gandhi: An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching. Our major central and state educational institutes should sincerely try to become ideal environmental friendly institutes and set examples for other institutes. Let us begin with some great educational institutes such as BHU, Varanasi, IIT, Kanpur, IIT Mumbai, NEERI, Nagpur, NBRI, Lucknow, CSIR-NCL, Pune, IISc Bangalore, etc., to set some examples of an ideal environmental friendly educational institute at least by recycling and reusing their wastes 100 percent if possible by 2022, the 75th year of our country’s independence. To the best of my knowledge, none of these institutes recycle and reuse their wastes 100 percent. As an expert member of NGRBA between 2009 and 2014, I found through discussion on this issue with experts that the hazardous chemicals from the labs of even prominent universities, IITs and CSIR Labs found their way through sewage water into our rivers/ water bodies.
Although India is a land of many great moral and spiritual teachers, under the influence of modern civilization, our intellectuals have excluded character building ethics education from our education system. In his Hind Swaraj, making a severe condemnation of the education system of modern western civilization,
Gandhiji rightly claimed: “… Our ancient school system is enough. Character building has the first place in it and that is primary education. A building erected on that foundation will last. ……Religious, that is ethical, education will occupy the first place.”(Hind Swaraj, pp.77-79.) “I feel and I have felt during the whole of my public life that we need, what a nation needs, but we perhaps of all the nations of the world need just now, is nothing else and nothing less than character-building.”
From the beginning of our Save Ganga Movement, it has been our persistent demand/ recommendation that ‘Environmental education, both environmental science and environmental ethics, along with critical character building ethics education must be taught from the beginning of our education system’. Humans under the spell of the glamour of the present form of development of modern civilization have become the most dangerous species of mother Earth due to unethical use of science and technology, although every human has the potentiality to become a divine being. Without providing critical character building ethics education from the beginning of our education system, it would not be possible to have a culture of development based on minds with divine characteristics. (See The Bhagavad Gita, Ch.16 for a discussion on divine and demoniacal characteristics.)We must introduce critical ethics education with character-building ethics education as its core and the problem of ultimate goal of life as its central problem from the beginning of our education system: it would be a major step in the right direction to overcome our present all-pervasive deep rooted moral and spiritual crisis through building the moral character of our society. Teaching environmental ethics, business ethics, medical ethics, etc., without discussing various fundamental questions concerning ethical values and the value and means of an ethical life, would be of little significance. We must study critically the views of great religions and of great teachers and thinkers of mankind about various fundamental issues of ethics concerning ethical values and the nature, value and means of (why and how to lead) ethically good life.
We will decide what would be our next steps after making some progress in the above three steps.
Let us always remember the profoundly very valuable message of Albert Einstein: “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” Our future generations would curse us and condemn us if we fail to save our dying great river mothers and their sources our great mountains and forests, which is absolutely necessary to ensure permanent water, food, air and health security to our masses, future generations and the dumb and deaf life-world.
With warm regards, goodwill, and prayers,
Smt. Rama Rauta, Founder, Save Ganga Movement
Former Member, Expert Advisory Committee, Ganga Rejuvenation, Ministry of WR, RD&GR, Govt. of India
Former Expert Member, National Ganga River Basin Authority, Govt. of India
President, National Women’s Organization, Pune