Published On : Thu, Oct 11th, 2018

Veteran Ganga activist G D Agarwal dies after fasting for 111 days

Veteran Environmental activist G D Agarwal died in a hospital in Rishikesh on Thursday, 111 days after he began a fast for a pollution-free Ganga. He was 86.

Agarwal, who began his fast on June 22 demanding government measures to save the Ganga, died of a heart attack at the All India Institute of medical Sciences in Rishikesh, its director Ravi Kant said.

Agarwal was admitted to hospital on Wednesday after he even gave up drinking water.

Local authorities imposed section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which bans assembly of people, around the venue of the protest and the activist was picked up and taken to hospital.

Dr Ravi Kant said Agarwal suffered from hernia, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease and the fast worsened his condition.

G D Agarwal, also known as Swami Gyanswaroop Sanand in his later years, has been a professor at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur and served on the Central Pollution Control Board.

He was protesting against hydroelectric projects on the Ganga’s tributaries and had demanded a law to protect the river.

Earlier, he had rejected a plea from Haridwar MP Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank to end the fast, following assurances on his demands from the Centre.

Agarwal had been campaigning for the Ganga for several years and undertook a similar fast earlier as well.

A few years ago, he adopted Swami Gyanswaroop Sanand as his name.

As his fast continued, on September 9 Agarwal announced he will give up water in October.

The National Mission for Clean Ganga officials then talked with him and Congress president Rahul Gandhi expressed support.

The Ganga activist had donated his organs for medical research at the Rishikesh AIIMS, its director said.

The government said that almost all the demands made by Agarwal had been accepted.

Water Resources and Ganga River Rejuvenation Minister Nitin Gadkari had said on Wednesday, “We have accepted almost all his demands (on cleaning of the Ganga). One demand was to to ensure environmental flow and we have come out with a notification.”

The government on Tuesday had come out with the e-flow gazette notification.

The notification states the minimum environmental flows for Ganga river that is to be maintained at various locations on the water body.

The second demand, Gadkari said, was to bring a legislation to protect Ganga. He said the legislation has been sent to Cabinet for approval, following which it will be tabled in Parliament.

“He had some demands related to (upcoming) hydro-power projects (on river Ganga). We are trying to bring all stakeholders together and sort the issue at the earliest.

“I had also written a letter to him stating that we have accepted nearly 70-80 per cent and that we need him and he should stop his fast,” the minister had said.

Reacting to Agarwal’s death, Aam Aadmi Party leader and party’s Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh said the activist was on an indefinite hunger strike for more than 100 days and the ‘insensitive government’ was ‘waiting for him to die’.

‘I had requested the government to save it, but those seeking vote on his name could not save him (sic),’ Singh tweeted.

Senior Congress leader and former environment minister Jairam Ramesh expressed anguish over his ‘martyrdom’.

“He was an indefatigable crusader not only for Nirmal Ganga but also for Aviral Ganga. It was my privilege and good fortune to be able to implement some of his important suggestions to ensure uninterrupted flow in the Ganga and its tributaries in Uttarakhand.

“I salute his commitment and dedication, his scholarship and learning, his faith and passion,” Ramesh said.