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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 43 New Delhi October 13, 2018

Swami Sanand’s Death a National Tragedy

Monday 15 October 2018, by Bharat Dogra


Swami Sanand breathed his last at a hospital in Rishikesh on October 11, the 111th day of his fast for the protection of the Ganga river. Known earlier as Prof G.D. Aggarwal, he was widely regarded as one of the most respected authorities on protection of the Ganga river.

After a doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley, he taught at the IIT and served as the Member-Secretary, Central Pollution Board. Then he took up sanyas and devoted himself to protection of the Ganga river. He fasted earlier also for the protection of Ganga and his demands were generally met as he had the authority of scientific facts and research reports to support his demands.

He was worried that the recommendations of the Justice Girdhari Malviya Report for Legislation on Ganga Protection were not being implemented. Raising this and a few other reasonable demands like establishing a council of people devoted to Ganga protection for consultation and stopping work on some ecologically harmful projects till these had been debated in Parliament, he wrote to the Prime Minister on February 24 this year that if these demands are not accepted then he will start a fast on June 22.

A time of four months was adequate to resolve these issues but when there was no response Swami Sanand started a fast on June 22. After sometime there was a coming and going of Ministers and sending of messages but as issues were not resolved to his satisfaction, the fast of Swami Sanand continued. Over 100 days passed like this. This was again adequate time to resolve the issues but again this could not be done and finally Swami Sanand died on October 11.

It is extremely sad that this great sage who combined the expertise of a famed engineer with the wisdom of a reputed environmentalist and the undiluted commitment of a saint had to die like this in a protest fast while his dedicated services could have been utilised in a constructive way for contributing greatly to the protection of the Ganga river.

The author is a freelance journalist who has been involved with several social movements and initiatives.

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