A tale of a great soul who sacrificed his life for River Ganga

Last year Oct 11th, Swamiji Gyan Swaroopa Sananda, formerly scientist GD Agrawal had given up his life after fasting for over 100 days urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Government to adopt measures to clean and save the river Ganges.


Once a upon a time river Ganga was pure, however, over the years this sacred river lost its pristine state because of pollution, dams etc. Government allowed factories, hotels on the banks of the Ganga with no measures to curb the effluents let out by the factories, human waste too flowed to this river): ...anyway. Besides this local people, were freely dumping garbage and other puja debris along with dead bodies in the Ganga in the religious belief that Ganga would give them moksha. Sand mining too was rampant, harming and disturbing the river’s banks. Besides this, dams stopped and impeded the flow of the Ganges and killed her wild and pure nature .

GD Agrawal, was a person who dedicated his life to save river Ganga. He was a learned scientist who graduated from Indian Institute of Roorkee , a prestigious Indian Science University as a civil engineer. He worked for a while but his passion for the environment took over and he pursued PHD in environmental science from the University of Berkeley, California.

Later he became a professor at IIT Kanpur for the department of Civil Engineering and EnvironmentalScience, post this he became Head of the Department
He went further to be directly involved in working for improving the quality of the environment starting a company Environ Instruments Pvt Ltd. along with a few of his students offering environment consultancy services. The company was a first of its kind to manufacture indeginous locally made instruments to monitor air quality.

GD Agrawal’s quest to work to improve the environment proceeded and progressed with him becoming a member-secretary of the Government of India Central pollution control board. He was also involved with many Govt. Committees, helping the Government of India to frame policies related to benefit India’s Environment.

Later after all this at the age of 77, GD Agrawal became a monk officially. As Swamiji Gyan Swaroopa Sananda, the monk spent most of his time in Varanasi on the banks of river Ganga, he had a strong spiritual connect with Gangaji, who he considered as maa Ganga, as mother.

In 2008, the Govt. of Congress led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had plans to dam the upper stretches of the Ganges, namely the Bhagirathi stretch.

However, Swamiji raised his voice for the river and began fasting, fully fine with starving to death if the dam projects were not cancelled on this stretch which was the only few of the remaining stretches of Ganges that flowed freely in its natural and pristine state. The Bhagirathi stretch originated in the Gangotri Glacier and flowed to Uttarkashi, if that part of the river was dammed and did not flow, the whole river would die as it cannot sustain enough flows to function as a river.

The Govt. listened to Swamiji and stopped the dams projects even though it was after Swamiji fasted for over 38 days!!!
Thanks to Swamji’s efforts, the Bhagirathi stretch of Gangaji was declared an eco-sensitive zone, and Ganga was declared a National River.

Ganges and all river in their free flowing state are pure and can be drunk without worry, it’s filled with natural minerals and vitamins. Besides this, a flowing river holds life, its required for fish to pass, for water to be cleansed, it also holds significance as a natural heritage. Dams stagnant water of the river , submerge lands, forests, destroy the livelihoods of local people who are displaced from their homes and land without adequate compensation.

What is more, dams are built for Governments and other Corporations to make profits, not for people, because the dam that’s built on a river, it’s benefits of electricity and drinking don’t go to local people in the region, they go to far off cities. There is corruption in these infrastructural projects that destroy Nature and rivers in the name of development.

Anyway, back to GD Agrawal’s story. He at that point saved sacred Bhagirathi section of Ganga. This time in 2018 he tried to save the upper reaches of the Ganges from dam projects as well, as dam projects were being built on river stretches like Alakananda, Mandakini besides other stretches. Sand mining was allowed to happen as in Ganga’s river basin. Plus, nothing was done to clean up the Ganga even though a separate Ministry to oversee everything for the welfare of river Ganga was formed. The National Ganga River Basin Authority that was formed for Ganga’s cause, it took crores of rupees from the World Bank to clean the Ganges but nothing was done for Gangaji.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi who came to power in 2014, was completely disregarding river Ganga even though he came to power in Varanasi, the place where Ganga was there by saying to the people of Varanasi that he was called by mother Ganga and he would not take anything from Maa Ganga but would only give. Swamiji Gyan Swaroopa Sananda was moved by PM Modi’s statement and he believed that Modi considered Ganga like his mother and would take measures for her benefit. However, the previous Government cared more for Ganga than Modi did.

Swamiji, waited till February 2018 since 2014 when the Modi Government came to power and now in only a few months of time, the Modi’s term as Prime Minister would end. However, nothing was given to Ganga, she was in fact allowed to be exploited with sand mining happening in her banks. Modi, was catering to the interests of big corporates, and he let them continue to exploit river Ganga. It was after this that Swamiji tried to communicate with PM Modiji, he wrote 3 letters and none of them were answered by PM Modi.

In the first 2 letters, Swamiji referred to PM Modi as a younger brother, since swamiji believed Narendra Modi considered Ganga as his mother, which makes Modi a brother to Swamiji as swamiji genuinely considered Ganga as Maa Ganga.

Swamiji, waited for some response from PM Modi writing these letters, there was no response. So, swamiji began his fast and with no response from PM Modi, he kept fasting till death.

The irony is that after Swamiji died, Modi tweeted that he was saddened by his death. Ha…

In the letters, Swamiji had some specific and very humble points he wanted the Government to implement all for river Ganga’s benefit. It was not catered to and river ganga was not getting any better. Ministers in charged like Nitin Gadkari who was in charge of infrastructure projects were a complete disappointment, as he had complete lack of understanding of Ganga.

More details on what GD Agrawalji aka Swamiji Gyan Swaroopa Sananda asked PM Narendra Modi to do for river Ganga in those letters he wrote to him will be mentioned in the next write up.

However, personally I feel heartbroken knowing Swamiji’s story. He deserved more respect from the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for Swamiji was not just a very prominent scientist and professor, he was also someone who worked to improve the environment of India. He was a great man and became divine finally with him becoming a saint but even then he remained a Ganga River activist at heart. He deserved more acknowledgement from Narendra Modiji. It’s very quesnable, how unreachable and heartless and soulless Modi is, though he puts up a good, kind face to the people with his excellent oratory skills.

And Ganga is a river, she too deserves respect. She can’t be thought of as just a means of water for irrigation, for electricity, she is sacred. If we kill rivers, we attract floods, drought and we don’t experience the bliss of a free flowing river.
Check this link out to understand what I say -

A free flowing river is abundant even to sustain people’s wants, livelihoods. There is possibility of encouraging eco tourism, offering rafting trips to tourists and others. Locals can also be exposed to the sport/hobby of whitewater kayaking and employment opportunities open up as locals can be rafting guides etc. Killing the river, removes beauty of nature, that nourishes us a lot. Anyway…

I can’t express the pain I feel enough or how much valuable a River is strongly enough. GD Agrawal died on October 11th, and I had no idea about him that time which was good because I would have been heartbroken on my birthday which was the very next day. And when I listened to his story in an event that was arranged as a tribute to him and delivered the message of free flowing rivers and more, I immediately took swamiji as my inspiration. He is like how Swami Vivekananda is to me, they are like my mentors at one level, though I only heard about them and never took the opportunity of taking the privilege of meeting these astonishing souls.

I will come back again continuing as I said next part.

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