Freedom River

Published: 08th June 2014 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th June 2014 12:44 PM   |  A+A-

The destruction of the establishment that has ruled the nation from Delhi and in many states in many avatars is the revenge of India. While history’s narration records and interprets the rise and fall of civilisations, mythology, which is the aesthetics of religion, gives beauty and richness to cultures. Political parties that thrive on caste, minority appeasement and welfare ideology have strategised for years to desensitise India’s mythological relevance. The contribution of the Indian Muslim, in poetry, architecture, cuisine and language has been obfuscated by ghettoised primitivism. On December 6, 1992, the Hindu, whose worship holds more private nuances than public exhibition—the beauty of its festivals notwithstanding—woke up to the siege of belief when the edifice that Babur built as a symbol of cultural and sectarian contempt fell. On May 17, national belief triumphed and a nationalist Prime Minister performed the aarti at Dashashwamedh Ghat in Varanasi. He tweeted, “(The) need of the hour is to restore the glory of the Ganga. Today Maa Ganga is calling us, her children, to make the river clean once again.”

Ironically, the ancient river Sabarmati was freed of its filth and factory effluents by the same leader accused of promoting urban development and industrial lobbies at the expense of the people.

Cleaning India’s holiest river was a political poll plank for decades. Rajiv Gandhi launched the Ganga Action Plan with a budget of `462 crore in 1986 in Varanasi. He vowed that the 2,500 km of waters choking with industrial pollution would be made pure again, like it was at the birth-time of the belief that the Ganga rises from the matted locks of Lord Shiva, the divine protector of Kashi. For many decades, many leaders during many elections made promises to clean the Ganga. In February 2014, the UPA government proudly declared in Parliament that `939 crore has been spent under the Plan. But studies reveal that the probable fecal coliform counts in the Ganga are around 100,000,000 MPN (microbial pollution) per 100 ml, way above the safe count of around 230. The bacterial levels are so high that the water is unfit not just for bathing or drinking but for agriculture as well. The UPA had responded with loan-waivers and crop insurance for farmers, instead of addressing the root cause of the crisis ravaging the Gangetic farming belt. It’s obvious that much of the crores of government funds allotted to cleaning our rivers have migrated to the pockets of corrupt politicians and bureaucrats.

To revive the Yamuna, Congress and BJP governments alike, with little effect, have spent `6,500 crore in the last 20 years. Six-hundred kilometres of it are so polluted that no water life survives in it, and Delhi’s sewage treatment plants can’t simply handle the refuse. Around the industrial world, capital cities are built on filth-free rivers that are proud cultural ambassadors of their histories—Washington’s Potomac, Moscow’s Volga, London’s Thames, the Seine in Paris and more. According to government statistics, Yamuna’s drinking water is contaminated daily by 600 million gallons of sewage. Around 60 per cent of Delhi’s sludge is dumped in the Yamuna. Here, too, mythology is demeaned; the Yamuna was the cradle of Krishna—Hinduism’s greatest guru, moral warrior and the god of romantic mysticism. Its banks now are fertile with poverty and vote banks of displaced immigrants, as criminals and slumlords rule over illegal settlements.

The cleaning of India’s great rivers are metaphors of national revival. The waters that have flowed through the vastness of history and mythos will be liberated from the refuse of the post-Independence years, just as the Ganga liberates the soul from sin. Purifying her is the first step towards purifying India’s soul, polluted by the cynical politics of power-hungry politicians and returning her liberating forgiveness to its people. She belongs to all Indians who seek salvation and once again cleansed, India will be free to unabashedly worship its heritage.

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