Environmentalist and Ganga activist Professor G D Agrawal (87), also called Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand, who was on a fast-unto-death in Haridwar’s Matri Sadan ashram for conservation of the river, died of cardiac arrest at AIIMS Rishikesh on Thursday afternoon.
He began the fast-unto-death on June 22 this year, demanding the passage of Ganga Protection Act, scrapping of all proposed and under-construction hydropower projects on the Ganga, a total ban on sand mining in the river-bed of the Ganga in Haridwar and formation of a council to look into issues related to the river.
Declaring his decision to undertake the fast-unto-death, Agrawal had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 23. He had mentioned that while he had written to Modi on February 24, 2018 and June 13, 2018, mentioning the condition of the Ganga, “you took no action”. “Therefore, I have undertaken a fast-unto-death,” he wrote.
Agrawal, a former IIT Kanpur professor, was the first member-secretary of Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and was baptised as Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand in July 2011. He had undertaken similar fasts in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, and 2013, demanding steps to ensure uninterrupted flow of the Ganga by banning construction of hydropower projects, and a ban on sand mining in the riverbed in Haridwar.
On October 2 this year, water conservationist Rajendra Singh, along with a team of 20 scientists, activists, and environmentalists had started a 105-day yatra from Gaumukh in Uttarakhand to Gangasagar in West Bengal to support Agrawal in his fast.
Singh had told The Indian Express, “Our yatra’s main purpose is to support Agrawal ji… we have five vehicles to undertake the yatra. We will walk where we have to, or cross the Ganga through boats where needed… we will halt at various human settlements along the river to apprise people about the need for a clean and free-flowing Ganga.”
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On Thursday, AIIMS Rishikesh Director Prof Ravi Kant told The Indian Express, “He (Agrawal) was suffering from coronary artery disease and high blood pressure. Also, the main valve of his heart was not functioning properly. All this led to a cardiac arrest after which he died.”
On Wednesday, Agrawal was forcibly taken to AIIMS Rishikesh by the Haridwar district administration. On Thursday, priests at Matri Sadan raised allegations that AIIMS Rishikesh was not treating Agrawal properly. However, Ravi Kant said, “We had clearly mentioned in his medical report (of August) that he was suffering from CAD and that he needed to get coronary angiography done, but he did not act. Also, he was on a fast-unto-death which was fatal to his condition.”
Agrawal had donated his body to AIIMS Rishikesh, but since he died at AIIMS Rishikesh, priests at Matri Sadan have decided to donate the body to Banaras Hindu University. On June 13, 2011, another priest from Matri Sadan ashram, Swami Nigmanand, had died, allegedly of organophosphate poisoning, on the 115th day of a fast-unto-death. Swami Nigmanand was fasting in demand of a ban on sand mining in Haridwar.