70-year-old Ganga activist on fast unto death says govt indifferent to ecology

Environment activist and spiritual leader Swami Shivanand Saraswati who is on fast unto death in Haridwar since August 3 demanding that hydropower projects on the Ganga and stone quarrying on the riverbed be stopped, has now reduced his daily water intake, his followers said Sunday.

In the fourth week of his fast unto death, the 70-year-old founder and head of the famous Matri Sadan ashram in Haridwar has now decided to reduce his daily water intake from 5 to 4 glasses. According to ashramites, he has not eaten any solid food and has been only drinking five glasses of water every day since he started the fast.

The seer is demanding scrapping of all hydropower projects on the Ganga, Yamuna and their tributaries, total prohibition on quarrying on Ganga river bed, enactment of Ganga Act, inclusion of pro-environmental activists in the drafting panel and related demands on which another seer Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand had also agitated.

Swami Shivanand said that he is “deeply hurt” by the indifferent attitude of the state and Central government and alleged that the political parties only view the Ganga and ecology through a political angle.

“I don’t fear giving up my life for the cause of the holy Ganga, ecology and the society. Until the government accepts all my demands in writing and takes concrete steps, I won’t stop,” he said.

Expressing concern that not a single Central or state minister has visited Matri Sadan ashram since Shivanand’s agitation that began four weeks ago, Magsaysay awardee Rajendra Singh said that environmentalists across the country are with Shivanand Saraswati and concerned about his fragile health.

“All the demands, earlier put up by Swami Gyan Swarup Sanand, Brahamchari Atmabodhanand, Sadhvi Padmavati and now Shivanand Saraswati are genuine which need to be addressed on priority level by the government,” he said.

Ganga Vichar Manch national founder Dr Bharat Pathak has also urged Swami Shivanand to give up his agitation.

“We have apprised Jal Shakti minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat about Swamiji’s agitation. He is quite concerned and we hope soon the demands are met. The life of Swamiji is precious and the whole society needs such a revered seer to guide us,” said Dr Pathak.

Earlier Ganga activist Swami Gyan Swarup Sanand, a former Indian Institute of Technology professor, had staged 112 days of fast unto death and died on October 11, 2018.

Shivanand is the latest seer from Matri Sadan ashram to agitate for the cause of the Ganga.

Last year Sadhvi Padmavati from the ashram had launched a fast unto death for the same causes before authorities took her away and force fed her. She resumed her fast after returning to the ashram Shivanand prevailed upon her to give up for health reasons and the Covid-19 pandemic

Sadhvi Padmavati had started her indefinite agitation on December 15, 2019 and fasted for 100 days.

Another young seer Brahamchari Atmabodhanand too had started his agitation in support of sadhvi from January 30 and continued for 40 days before Swami Shivanand Saraswati also urged him to break his agitation.

In October 2018, Sant Gopal Das had also started fast unto death agitation at Matri Sadan ashram, within hours of the demise of Gyan Swarup Sanand. He was also taken away and force fed by authorities.

On June 13, 2011, a young swami named Nigmanand had died after 114 days of indefinite fast at Matri Sadan ashram on the same demands. Ashramites had then alleged that he was poisoned by people with vested interests.

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