The battle for Varanasi has just started with the high profile political leaders beginning to file their nominations from the ancient city. While AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal filed his nomination on Wednesday, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi will file his nomination from the temple town on Thursday.
Overall, the times are interesting for Varanasi. However, just a few miles away from the district headquarters of Varanasi, flows the mighty Ganges. The narrow and contracted breadth of the river in the holy city well describes the interrupted flow and pollution of the river in its entire course.
Vinod Sahni, a boatman says, “The river is owned by all. It serves Hindus, Muslims and all communities equally. Therefore it is neither a Hindu vote bank nor Muslim vote bank. We stand no where without this river.”
Sadly, no party manifesto has clearly mentioned about their agenda on the Ganga. Despite the hot political conversations coming from Varanasi, the Ganga is nowhere in the list. While a heavy number of Hindu devotees come and offer rituals on the banks of the Ganges almost daily, the river is equally the source of income generation and water for people of all communities.
According to Prof BD Tripathi, a river scientist from the Benaras Hindu University (BHU), who is also one of the members of the National River Ganga Basin Authority (NRGBA), it seems the Ganga is not the vote bank this political season and this is the reason why the political parties are not coming up with a clear agenda on the issue. “It is the hostility of the political parties that this river, a life line of 450 million people and 5 states, is suffering”, he said.
Prof Tripathi strongly says that the problem associated with the river is not just pollution, but dams and channels built over its course. A time will come in next ten years when the Ganga originating from Himalayas may not reach its destination that is Ganga Sagar, he says.
According to Dr Rajendra Singh (Water Man of India), Ganga is not discussed any where, reason being the river is not giving votes to them. Some of the manifestos have mentioned about linking rivers though. “However, linking and connecting rivers is itself a major threat for a river’s life. They should rather talk about connecting the rivers with the society and sustainable development. Ganga and other major rivers in the country have only become garbage carriers and thus they do not offer votes to the political parties. This is where the river lags behind”, said Magsaysay award winner Dr Singh.
According to him, it’s been three decades that the ambitious Ganga Action Plan (GAP) was launched in April 1985 from Varanasi and that brought support from several lakhs of voters, however the very fact is being forgotten this poll season.
Sankat Mochan Foundation, an organisation led by environmentalist late Veer Bhadra Mishra is also of the same opinion. Prof Vishwambhar Nath Mishra of SMF and Mahant of Sankat Mochan temple says, “We have clearly put our agenda before Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal on their respective visits to the holy city. We have kept our fingers crossed to see what is in store for the river”, he said.