NATIONAL WOMEN’S ORGANIZATION, PUNE
( Reg No. Mah/735/99,Pune exemption on U/S 80-g of the IT Act 1961)
Four-days National Seminar cum Interaction and Dialogue on ‘Gandhi, Ganga & Giriraj (Himalayas)’ from 1st to 4th October 2006 at Hardwar, Uttaranchal
Gandhi symbolizes a culture of Truth and non-violence, i.e. a culture of pursuit of ethical perfection as the ultimate goal of life and pursuit of selfless ethical life of universal love as its means; the Ganga, symbolizes all rivers and water bodies; and the Giriraj Himalaya, symbolizes all mountains, forests and wildlife.
Neither Bapuji nor any of our great teachers and seers would approve the present culture of development of modern western civilization, which has caused disappearance of tens of thousands of plant and animal species and continues to cause greater and greater violence to our life-sustaining natural systems. Contrary to the widely accepted belief, Gandhiji is not against machinery or development as such. He would be not against the use of machinery for development within the limits of ethics. But he would certainly not approve the present culture of development of modern western civilization, which has caused and continues to cause greater and greater violence to our life-sustaining natural systems. He considered the modern western civilization to be essentially an irreligious false civilization in the sense that selfless ethical love, which constitutes the essence of religious life, has no place or only peripheral place in it, and what it considers to be the ultimate goal of life is essentially false, and articulated an alternative to it involving essentially retelling the basic values of the great teachers and seers of our classical Indian civilization in the context of our present technological age. It was his firm conviction that in the materialization of his vision lay the true freedom of India, and through India of the world at large. He did not change his view on this issue till the end of his life.
Unlike the explicit anthropocentric ethics of modern western civilization, the ethics of our civilization has been explicitly life-centric. The great teachers and seers of our ancient Indian civilization explicitly accept universal non-violence, i.e. non-violence to both human and non-human life, to be the foundation of ethics. They see clearly that enlightened selfless ethical life of love constitutes the core of Truth, i.e. of the ultimate goal of life, and pursuit of selfless ethical life of love, serving selflessly one’s society to the best of one’s ability through some work required for the general good and making constant effort to progress towards ethical perfection, constitutes the core of its means. They see clearly that unselfish ethical life of love is intrinsically blissful and invaluable for us, and that our love for human beings is bound to be highly imperfect if we interact cruelly with our fellow non-human beings. They explicitly accept that pursuit of wealth and pleasure within the limits of ethics is essential not only for the pursuit of the ultimate goal of life, but also for sustainable development and prosperity in society. Gandhiji sees clearly that all great religions also explicitly or implicitly accept the same. All our rivers and forests are invaluable for us and they will remain invaluable for us forever. It is our deep conviction that saving the Ganga, the Cradle of our Civilization and the lifeline of crores of our people, and the Himalyas which is the source of the Ganga and many other great rivers, would certainly be a major step in the direction to create a culture of development based on the principle universal non-violence. Posterity will condemn us if we do not take the necessary time- bound steps to avoid the impending ecological crises. Let us provide the world a culture of Truth and non-violence in the context of our present technological age, where all religions could grow harmoniously, and where development could take place with loving care of the invaluable countless kinds of flora and fauna of our life-sustaining natural systems.
Since the basic values of all great religions are essentially the same, the rejection of the Gandhian alternative to modern western civilization essentially means the rejection of the basic values of all great religions. Today modern western civilization is spreading like wildfire throughout our country and the basic values of our classical Indian civilization, which is the only living great ancient civilization today, are disappearing fast from the core of our life. The temptation of the glamour of the modern western civilization is becoming too strong to resist. Let us make an in-depth critical study of the Gandhian alternative and initiate a national debate on it before it is too late. It will be a fitting tribute to the greatest apostle of Truth and non-violence of our age.
With the objective to create mass awareness against the pollution of the Ganga and its tributaries through seminars, meetings and public addresses in various major cities, towns located on the banks of the Ganga, as a part of our Save Ganga Movement, we completed our Save Ganga Yatra from Gangotri to Gangasagar with grand success in three phases on 30th November 2003, which we had commenced from our beloved Bapuji’s Samadhi at Rajghat, Delhi on 13th May 2002. In the course of the Yatra, we quite successfully held 3 Save Ganga Seminars and 6 save Ganga Meetings in which many distinguished scientists, intellectuals, social activists, social leaders, Gandhians and religious leaders participated and expressed their views. It was generally agreed that since our rivers and forests are invaluable for us, we must take time-bound decisive steps to make all our rivers completely and permanently free from pollution and transform one third of our land in to forests, and making the Ganga and its tributaries completely and permanently free from pollution, which constitute the lifeline of nearly 40 % of our country’s population, would be a major step in this direction. In the National Save Ganga Seminar at Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, on 22nd Nov. 2003, it was generally agreed that “even with the available knowledge, skill and money, the Ganga could be cleaned completely within two years.” Lack of will and apathy of our political leadership and almost total apathy of our bureaucrats to solve the problem is mainly responsible for our failure and our intellectuals’ failure to create the necessary mass awareness is its root cause. Protection of the Ganga, symbolizing all rivers and water bodies, and the Giriraj Himalaya, symbolizing all mountains, forests and wildlife, must be accorded highest priority in our national development process. (For the details please see our reports on the Yatra.)
In the National Workshop on ‘Gandhi Ganga and Giriraj’ held on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti as a part of our Save Ganga Movement at Gandhi Darshan Samiti, Rajghat, Delhi on 1st and 2nd October 2004, a Charter of Ten Demands were unanimously accepted to be the Ten Commandments for establishing in our country a culture of development based on the principle of non-violence which constitute the base of all ethics.
We organized a Save Ganga & Save Himalayas March from Bapuji’s Samadhi at Rajghat to Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi on 12-03-2006, the76th Anniversary of Gandhji’s Dandi Yatra, and formally presented Our Ten Demands to our Hon’ble Rashtrapatiji in the form of an Appeal to Save the Ganga and the Himalayas. The Yatra was organized/supported by about 24 organizations. It was unanimously resolved to celebrate the Day of Dandi Yatra, 12th March, every year in the form a Save Ganga & Save Himalaya March from Bapuji’s Samadhi to Rashtrapati Bhavan till the necessary steps are taken to completely and permanently save The Ganga &The Himalayas. A delegation consisting of Smt Rama Rauta, Rev. Vincent M. Concessao, Archbishop of Delhi, Rev. Sawami Nikhilanandaji of Chinmaya Mission, Delhi, Shri Vasant Gadgil of IIMV, Vedic Research Center, Pune met our Hon’ble Prime Minister on13th March 2006 at 9.30a.m and presented the Ten Demands in the form of an appeal to Save The Ganga & The Himalyas. The Prime Minister has said that he considers the Ganga to be the soul of India and has assured that his government would certainly take the necessary steps as soon as possible to save the Ganga and the Himalayas.
It is deeply satisfying that our Save Ganga Movement has succeeded to a great extent to bring under one umbrella various like-minded eminent scientists, social workers and organizations, Gandhians, spiritual leaders and organizations to work together for the absolutely non-controversial noble cause of Saving the Ganga and the Himalayas.
We would like the seminar to discuss some of the following issues which we have pointed out in our appeal to our Hon’ble Rashtrapatiji and Hon’ble Prime Minister in the form of a Charter of Ten Demands to Save the Ganga and the Himalayas:
1). The impending catastrophe of fast receding of Himalayan glaciers due to increasing global warming which has devastating implications for various major Asian rivers of the Himalayan origin, has to be understood and tackled at a regional and global level. At the regional level, it must involve all Himalayan nations. What steps India should take as a major global initiative in this direction to tackle this regional and global crisis?
2) Is it desirable to construct big dams like the Tehri dam in the earthquake -prone Himalayas region?
3)Should the sewage be treated through the electricity-dependent technology or through the pond system, in view of the erratic power supply in the Northern India and the unsatisfactory capability of modern plants to reduce pathogens?
4) Since all our major rivers flow through more than one state, and city sewage constitute the major source of our river pollution, should not the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests take the full responsibility of construction, operation and maintenance of treatment plants, leaving no scope for the central and state government authorities blaming each other for the failures? (in view of the Ganga Action Plan experience of poor operation and maintenance by local bodies due to their traditional lack of finance, trained manpower ,etc.)
5) Should the Constitution be emended to put the full responsibility of protection of the Ganga and other major rivers and the Himalayas in the Central List?
6)Since there is utter political and bureaucratic apathy towards the problem of environmental degradation, should not the Supreme Court direct our Central and State Governments to take decisive time- bound steps to make the Ganga and other rivers completely and permanently free from pollution and transform one third of our lands in to forests, and appoint a committee of experts to monitor the progress of the governmental course of actions in this direction?
7) Must not our National laboratories such as NEERI, ITRC, etc., regularly monitor the pollution levels of major rivers and inform the public about the hazardous effects through various forms of mass media?
8) Should not environmental ethics be taught as a part of the syllabus on ethics, both at the school as well as at the college level? Teaching environmental ethics without discussing the value and means of an ethical life would be of little significance. Gandhiji would agree with the view that we must study critically the views of great religions, and of great teachers and thinkers about various fundamental issues of ethics. It is highly deplorable that at present, under the influence of modern western civilization, ethics has no place in our educational curricula from Std.1 to postgraduate level.
Let us provide the world a culture of Truth and non-violence in the context of our present technological age, where all religions could grow harmoniously, and where development could take place with loving care of the invaluable countless kinds of flora and fauna of our life-sustaining natural systems. Posterity will condemn and curse us if we do not take the necessary time bound steps to avoid the impending ecological crises, which has devastating implications for them.
Smt. Rama Rauta
President, National Women’s Organization, Pune
Convener, Save Ganga Movement