Source: The Hitavada      Date: 21 Jun 2017 12:20:32

THE statement by Union Minister for Water Resources Ms. Uma Bharti that the law for protection of the Ganga river would be brought in only after a full consideration of the details of the proposed legislation, is perfectly in tune with the caution the Government is taking before taking a final leap. Ms. Uma Bharti refused to divulge the details of the legislation proposed by the Justice Girdhar Malviya Committee and insisted that the proposal would be converted into law only once it is made foolproof. This is a good approach and would help in taking care of various dimensions of Ganga preservation plans.

The Minister agreed that the Ganga is one of the ten most polluted rivers in the world and recommitted the Government to its cleansing. Yet, she sought time to make a final draft for the legislation so that every provision becomes absolutely correct. 

The problem of Indian rivers is more cultural in nature than anything. While the larger society treated them as holy life-lines of the nation, an equal popular apathy also hit their sanctity. For, as has been obvious, most Indians who talk of the Ganga as the holiest of rivers also indulge in actions that ultimately cause a massive pollution of the rivers.

The larger Indian society stretched the definition of ‘holy’ to such a ridiculous extent that it started dumping dead bodies into the Ganga’s flow with the fond hope that such an act would purify the soul and take the person to salvation. Many such practices added much muck to the river in addition to the absolutely condemnable release of industrial and urban wastes into the Ganga river and also into other rivers in the country.

In fact, similar conditions have been found prevailing elsewhere in the world as well, and cleansing of the rivers has become an global issue. In many places, the rivers have been kept assiduously clean, but in most places, a general apathy governed people’s shameless and collective damning of the rivers as well as other water bodies.

Formulation of a law to correct these maladies is certainly one way of tackling the challenge, and the Government is taking that route, as highlighted by Ms. Uma Bharti. Once that law is formed, it will become applicable to other rivers as well and there will be an overall improvement in the manner in we treat our rivers or preserve them.

A recent move saw the Narmada River being declared a ‘living entity’. Such declarations do help to change popular mindset favourably. Yet, is it not a fact that all rivers are living entities? For, a river is not just a water-flow between banks. Much to the contrary, it represents a whole system that accommodates and supports life in unimaginable diversity. Creating an awareness about that realm is the first step towards preservation of rivers.

In the case of the Ganga river, this is very much true. For, since time immemorial, the Ganga has acted as a symbol of ancient Indian history, culture and ethos. It is most unfortunate that for all these thousands of years, we only neglected this holiest of rivers and allowed it to be spoilt almost beyond redemption.

Hence the importance of the efforts the Government is making. Once the law comes into effect, it will be used appropriately to stem the rot. But what will be of equal importance will be the effort made by the larger society to create an awareness of the Ganga’s importance. Unless that is not achieved, the law will have only a limited utility. Unless we cleansed the social eco-system, we would not be able to cleanse the Ganga eco-system. It is in that direction that we must start taking definitive steps, failing which we will fail ourselves and also the Ganga river in the long run.