Environmental engineer and former IIT-Kanpur professor-turned-sadhu, Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand (formerly GD Agrawal), 81, has not eaten anything for three-and- a-half months. By the time this article will be published, it will be 107 days since he started a fast-unto-death at the Matri Sadan Ashram in Haridwar, Uttarakhand, to protest the damming and pollution of the Ganga. This is his fifth fast in as many years.
On 21 September, in an ultimatum to the political class, he stopped consuming even liquids. In the wee hours of 24 September, the Uttarakhand government jumped into action and admitted Swami Sanand to Doon Hospital in Dehradun. Currently, he is being fed intravenously.
The Central government is planning to build 600 dams on the Ganga and its tributaries. Hemant Dhyani of the Matri Sadan Ashram says 70 power projects on the river and its three tributaries — Mandakini, Alaknanda and Bhagirathi — are in the pipeline. Fourteen hydel power projects are already under construction.
“Thirty-five MPs have taken interest in saving the Ganga and raised the issue in Parliament. Yet, neither the Central nor the state government wants to put a stop to the destruction of the river,” said Swami Sanand. “There should be no dams on the Bhagirathi, above Tehri. The Loharinag Pala, Pala Maneri and Mehroghati projects were stopped in 2010 due to our sustained efforts. Around five projects on the Alaknanda have been proposed. They are all unsustainable. Our ultimate demand is that Gangaji must be aviral — there should be no hurdle in her path.”