Environmentalist and academic GD Agarwal, who was on an indefinite fast in Haridwar since June 22 to urge the government to clean the river Ganga, died of a heart attack on Thursday, ANI reported. He was 86.
Since earlier this week Agarwal had even given up the water mixed with honey that he had been drinking, reported The Wire. He was admitted to All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Rishikesh, on Wednesday.
Agarwal has earlier held the chair at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. He served on the board of the National Ganga River Basin Authority and was the first member secretary of the Central Pollution Control Board. The government had also engaged him at various levels to advise them on the health of the country’s rivers.
Agarwal’s demands included maintaining the environmental flow of the river to prevent pollution, removal of encroachments along the riverbank, and a special law to deal with pollution and encroachment of the Ganga.
In July, the police forcefully removed Agarwal from the venue of his indefinite fast and took him to an undisclosed location. Later, Agarwal filed a petition in the Uttarakhand High Court against the action, stating that his peaceful fast did not pose a law and order problem to the state.
Activist and lawyer Prashant Bhushan condoled the death.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said Agarwal’s sacrifice would provide “vision to this blind government”. “Modi ji said river Ganga is calling him but it is even more polluted than it was in 2014,” Surjewala told ANI. “Rs 22,000 crore was allotted for cleaning it, not even 1/4th of it has been used. Is Namami Gange also a ‘jumla’?”
Union minister Uma Bharti, who till last year served as the minister for Ganga rejuvenation, condoled Agarwal’s death. “I am shocked by his demise,” she said. “I had feared that this would happen. I have informed Nitin Gadkari and others about his demise.”