Nath Mahendra is the All-India Treasurer of Vishwa
Hindu Parishad (VHP). He is also the Regional
President (Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal) of the outfit. In an
interview given to Eco Friends, Mr Mahendra expressed his anguish
at the deplorable condition of the river Ganga and declared that
VHP would soon launch a massive Clean-Ganga campaign with the
help of saints in Kanpur.
have been into social service for long.
Mahendra: I came to Kanpur back in 1947 and did
my graduation here. From the very beginning I have been associated
with social service organisations. Eight years back, I formed
Green Friends. We campaigned against smoking. We also propounded
the Smriti Van Yojana (Memory Tree Plan) under which we intended
to grow trees in the name of departed souls. But because the Kanpur
Municipal Corporation turned a cold shoulder and we were not allotted
any area, the plan remained a non-starter.
inspired you to form Green Friends?
Mahendra: I was the governor of Rotary International
in 1990-91. At that time, the president of Rotary gave the slogan:
Preserve Planet Earth. This slogan caught my attention and I started
motivating people to plant trees, make efforts to reduce air pollution
and conserve water. During my tenure, I undertook a massive plantation
of 1,56,000 saplings. I also ensured these saplings were taken
care of. I am happy that around 80,000 of these saplings have
grown into trees. The Rotary International acknowledged this feat.
do you find the state of Ganga in Kanpur?
Mahendra: I am the Vice President of Ganga Mahasamiti. I wrote a book on
Ganga some time back. While Ganga Action Plan (GAP) was being
launched in 1986, I told Mr Rajiv Gandhi, the then Indian Prime
Minister, that lot of money had already been pumped into the Ganga
Barrage Project. In 1966, the Ganga Barrage Project was initiated.
It could have been completed with an investment of Rs 80 crores.
But committees after committees were constituted under the Project
and nothing was done. Those involved pocketed huge amounts of
money. Now the cost of Ganga Barrage has mounted to Rs 400 crores.
It is still not complete.
had envisaged in the book that a well-planned Ganga Project would
solve the drinking water problem of the city. It would make dredging
easy. Today, despite the GAP, the water the citizens drink is
unhygienic. Ironically, the Jal Sansthan (Water Department) has
been increasing water tax. Acting on this, the Supreme Court directed
the Jal Sansthan to justify the increase in water tax by ensuring
clean drinking water. The Jal Sansthan has done nothing to comply
with this directive. The water is still contaminated and if the
current trend prevails, within 2-3 years water would be available
Rs 6 per bucket in Kanpur.
How can we plug the loopholes existing
in the Ganga Action Plan?
Mahendra: All the money invested in Ganga Action
Plan (GAP) has been siphoned off by the authorities concerned.
I propose that a Central Bureau Investigation (CBI) enquiry should
be initiated against all those who are involved in GAP. A thorough
probe should be undertaken of the inaction that has marred GAP
and the guilty should be jailed. A committee of engineers, intellectuals,
social workers, journalists and water experts should be set up
who can monitor GAP. But the IAS (read government official) is
not ready for formation of such a committee because he knows that
if this committee comes into existence, he would have no scope
to pocket money. The GAP is rank failure. Forget about taking
a holy dip in Ganga, if you come into contact with its water you
will develop diseases.
the Ganga Barrage reduce the drinking water scarcity problem in
Mahendra: It is being hoped that after the bridges
come up, Ganga water will touch the ghats. But only when clean
water comes from upstream to the Barrage will the real problem
of pollution be solved otherwise everything will come back to
square one. We will continue getting unclean water.
do you think about the pollution being caused by the leather-making
Mahendra: The present plight of Ganga is mainly
because of the tanneries. They empty all their leather waste into
the river. Tannery owners are most indifferent to the pollution
problem. Everybody knows that the tannery wastewater is toxic.
So why aren’t the politicians, who call themselves representatives
of the people, raising their voice against it? The administration
is indulged in eye washing and knee-jerk activities. It says that
it is closing the leather industries in phases. Actually, it is
doing nothing. Even if it is closing the units, why in phases?
Why isn’t it closing all the tanneries which are illegally
operating? There could be two reasons behind this. Either it does
not want to displease the Muslims (most of whom own the tanneries)
lest it would lose vote banks or it is taking bribes from the
you know the tannery wastewater is going into the fields of many
Mahendra: Yes, the innocent villagers are getting
this poisonous water. Little wonder, their crops have been badly
affected. The government officials are creating Putnaas (read
devils) after Putnaas who are destroying the entire ecology.
So, what is VHP planning on Ganga?
Mahendra: We organised the Tenth Dharam Conference
in February 2003 which was attended by 10,000 Hindu saints. We
passed a resolution on Ganga cleaning and expressed utter pathos
at the sorry state of the Ganga. All assurances of the ruling
government have turned out to be hollow. Therefore, Dhramsansad
appealed to the government that it should undertake efforts on
war-footing to bring back the glory of Ganga river.
the administration and the government do not pay attention to
the growing pollution in the Ganga, then Vishwa Hindu Parishad
(VHP) would launch a movement with the help of sadhus and saints
very soon. We will practise anshun (hunger strike), hold dharnas
(sit-ins), organise awareness rallies and meetings. The administration
should be prepared to tackle the repercussions.
when the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) visited Kanpur, the VHP
had put forward its proposal to take steps to prevent the further
pollution in river Ganga. If this is not done, we will start a
campaign with the support of saints from Kanpur. We see Ganga
not as a river but regard it as our Mother. Today, the scientists
are proving the utility of Ganga water but its usefulness has
already been established in our scriptures. It is not without
reason that Ganga is revered and worshipped as a Goddess. So,
if it is neglected as it has been over the years, it is certain
that government’s apathy will give rise to a massive revolution.
But floating of dead body in the
river, on religious grounds, also creates pollution in Ganga.
Mahendra: People will be made aware about the
pollution they are causing by floating dead bodies in the river.
The Hindu saints are ready to say this to the public. There is
a need to dispel the some of the traditional misconceptions and
only by making them aware can we handle the problem. And when
saints explain this to the people, they will certainly pay heed
to it. I am sure Ganga will become pure if we all join our hands