SAVE GANGA MOVEMENT
This article had appeared under the title MAHATMA MISFORTUNE By Huned
Contractor, in the Pune Times of India, on Tuesday, January 08, 2002
The moral decay is apparent. Whether it be among politicians who will
break all rules to stay in power, the financial markets where the manipulator
holds the chips, the defence sector where coffins turn into a controversy
or be it the corporate domain where competition is akin to fencing.
Even in personal lives, wherein hedonism conquers all. In troubled times
like these, there are but a motley group of people who continue to press
for a recourse to Gandhian philosophies. For they stand by the
belief that it is now that the mantra of Satya, Ahimsa and Prem, will
work the best. It is a tough fight.
One that involves persuading people to change their attitudes, especially
when they face a generation of savvy young people caught in a tug-of-war
between the traditions and ideals of the east and the glitter of the west.
The Gandhians are, however, not giving up. Not yet.
One such lady, who has committed herself to the promotion of Gandhian
philosophies and has been aggressively working on action plans - as diverse
as cleaning the Ganga and transforming Gandhi memorials into spiritual
ashrams - is city-based Rama Rauta. Originally from Lucknow and
married to a professor of philosophy, Rama turned from being a homemaker
to a firebrand activist. The transition occurred, only after she met environmentalist
Sunderlal Bahuguna, a decade ago. “I was mesmerised by his words
and the simple logic of what he implied. Finally, it is only love, truth
and non-violence, which can usher in positive results,” she says.
Rustling through a heap of documents in her apartment at the university
teachers quarters, Rama extracts those which concern the Save Ganga
“It has been 14 years since the government launched the Ganga Action
Plan, to clean it of its impurities. What happened to it? What has been
done about the 29 cities, 70 towns and thousands of villages along its
banks that have deposited more than 13 billion litres of sewage directly
into it? Why is there no action against those manufacturing units
that have added into the river more than 260 million liters of industrial
waste? Is it enough for us Indians to keep saying that the Ganga
is like our mother? Then how do we tolerate the fact that our mother
is dying because of our insensitivity?” asks a fuming Rama.
The Save Ganga Movement, under the leadership of Tara Gandhi Bhattacharajee
Mahatma Gandhi’s granddaughter), has now planned to undertake a 25-day
yatra in May. Says Rama, “We cannot depend any longer on government
agencies to do anything. We have decided, therefore, that we shall undertake
a huge awareness drive and make people understand why is it important
to save our rivers. Ganga is just a symbol.
The scenario stands true, for all the rivers in our country which are
becoming a victim of untreated industrial effluents. The important thing
is that we are going to carry out our activities the way Gandhiji would
have liked us to.”
Even the prime minister has responded saying that the Ganga Action Plan
cannot succeed without the people’s participation. Yet another issue
that has worried the likes of Rama Rauta, is the collapse of the Gandhi
memorials and ashrams due to the lack of funding and active interest.
“Isn’t it strange that while terrorist organisations get plenty
of funds to kill people, there is no money available to run institutions
which promote peace and brotherhood?” vents Rama, her ire in a sarcastic
query. In association with fellow Gandhians Rama Rauta wants to convert
many of these defunct ashrams into spiritual abodes. The emphasis is on
attracting the attention of the youth.
“A disturbing fact that has emerged during my interaction with students
across India, is that a majority of them blame Gandhiji for the Indian-Pakistan
divide. But this is something that has been drivelled into their minds.
They themselves have not read the history books properly. Nor have they
read Mahatma Gandhi’s book titled Hind Swaraj.
Otherwise they would realise that Gandhiji was never in favour of a Hindu
Muslim split. For a man who gave his life to upholding the values of ahimsa,
how would he have tolerated the slightest bit of violence?” enquires
And to drive home this point as also put under the spotlight Gandhiji’s
views on spirituality and religion, Rama, under the banner of the National
W o m e n ’ s Organisation has, in association with the Gandhi
National Memorial Society of Pune, organised a seminar on January 30,
the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. This is to be held at the Aga
Khan palace on Nagar road.
“We want to advocate Gandhiji’s view, that clearly states how
spirituality does not belong to the domain of mysticism but to ethics.
We want to tell people about how he firmly believed that the man who discovered
for us the law of love was a far greater scientist than any of our
modern innovators,” says Rama.
For staunch Gandhian theorists like Rama, the experiment with truth is
already underway. The need of the hour is for more people to be a part