#India – 80-year-old former IIT professor- G D Agarwal on indefinite hunger strike again


 

Author(s): Soma Basu  , down to earth
Date:Jun 14, 2013

‘Despite repeated assurances of government, 18 proposed hydel projects on the Ganga and its tributaries have not been scrapped’

G D Agarwal has been on fast thrice earlierG D Agarwal has been on fast thrice earlierEnvironment engineer G D Agarwal has resumed his indefinite hunger strike in Matri Sadan Ashram in Haridwar to press his demand of scrapping all hydro projects on the Bhagirathi, Alaknanda and Mandakini river basins. He has gone on hunger strike thrice earlier to protest against the Loharinag Pala hydroelectric project in Uttatrakhand which was eventually scrapped by the government under public pressure.

The 80-year-old former IIT professor, who is now known as Swami Gyan Swarup Sanand, started his fast on Thursday to commemorate the death anniversary of Swami Nigamanand  on 13 June, 2011. The 32-year-old ascetic had fasted for four months to protest illegal sand mining and stone crushing along the Ganga near Haridwar; his associates alleged he was poisoned at the behest of powerful stone crusher lobby.

Swami Dayanand of Matri Sadan ashram said Agarwal resumed his fast because despite repeated assurances of the government, 18 proposed mini and major hydropower projects on the Ganga and its tributaries have not been scrapped.

“It is imperative to maintain the ecological flow of Ganga and its tributaries. Construction of so many hydropower projects is threatening the existence of Ganga that is a symbol of India’s faith and culture. At several places, debris from construction site of projects is dumped into the river,” he said.

Earlier in 2010, Agarwal had fasted for over a month protesting the construction of the 600 MW Loharinag Pala hydroelectric project in Uttarkashi. The project would have left a stretch of 125 km of Ganga between Gangotri and Uttarkashi dry. The project work was stalled in 2010. However, Uttarakhand chief minister, Vijay Bahuguna, have been supporting two major projects—Loharinag Pala and the 480 MW Pala Maneri on the stretch of Bhagirathi between Uttarkashi and Gangotri.

 

To Asghar Ali Engineer Saab, I say …


By- Ramu Ramanathan

1.
To the local astrologer, I went and asked
Junaab: yeh inquilaab kab aayega?
2.
His followers prohibited from worshiping idols
Yet his lordship prays to his fleet of Rolls Royce engines
Instead of blessing his tribe with the Ta’wil and Ta’fsir
When they crawl for the Sajda under his feet
3.
Spies, spies, they are everywhere
Imprisoning you for what you think
4.
Ali Sardar Jaffri
Khwaja Ahmed Abbas
Krishnan Chander
Others
Unlike you
All of the above, sign Madame’s letter
Instead of throwing the pen, away
5.
5-a.
You say to me
The Ganges may be Holier
But the canal
Near Maliyana and Hashimpura
Is bloodier

5-b.

The first story you told me
About the E Maidan
Where factories rioted with factories
And the brassware industry lived unhappily ever after
5-c
The second story you told me
About the constabulary
Who severed her legs
And yet, the young girl (known for her personal hygiene)
Crawled to the river in Logaingaon
To complete her daily bath
5-d
The third story you told me
About potatoes
Who were persecuted under Section 153 A
Since the innocent blood
Found beneath the soil
Improved crop cultivation
5-e
We have been notified
The 300 mini-riots in 1990
Cannot be classified as riots
It was an endeavour in communal harmony
To recycle the dead beings into medical implants
For the other
6.
Asghar Ali Engineer Saab
To you, I say
Gaali khaya
Maar khaaya
Jihaad kiya
Now let’s go to a disco
Where I know a dervish DJ
We can drink all night
Till our faith fades away …

(Dr Asghar Ali Engineer passed away on 14 May 2013)

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#RIP- Mahant Veer Bhadra Mishra, Sankat Mochan Mandir Kashi-Benaras


 

A deeply spiritual man, who has ensured Benaras-Kashi remained peaceful and calm after the ghastly attack on the Sankat Mochan Mandir(7.3.2006), Mahant Veer Bhadra Mishra passed away yesterday
Deeply Committed to India s syncretic ethos, opposing the politics of division and the demolition of the Babri Masjid Mahantji s dream of a clean Ganga Mata remains a distant dream

We deeply mourn his loss

He had been part of CJP-MSD s meeting in Mumbai on 27.7.2006 after the ghastly train bombings in Mumbai appealing for peace and cal, emphasising that no Faith sanctions Terror and Violence

 

 

 

Professor Veer Bhadra Mishra was an engineer and Hindu priest who has dedicated his life to clean up his beloved River Ganges. “I am a part of Ganga and Ganga is a part of me,” he used to say. “I want not a single drop of sewage going into the river.” Besides an activist campaign that has educated millions about problems facing rivers around the world. Mishra, a former professor of hydraulics, has launched practical projects. One of these now provides clean drinking water through new wells to six neighboring villages whose residents were getting sick on Ganges water. He was also working hard with University of California scientists on plans for an alternative technology system. It is powered by gravity rather than electrical power, uses bacteria and algae to eliminate pollutants, and not only purifies river water but can be used to irrigate farmland and grow fish. In 1999 Dr. Mishra was nominated by Time Magazine as “hero of the planet” for bringing the plight of the Ganga to the world’s attention, inspiring other “riverkeepers” around the world.

CJP

 

#India-Ganga is now a deadly source of cancer,#study


Anirban Ghosh | Oct 17, 2012, 12.52AM IST

 
KOLKATA: The holy Ganga is a poison river today. It’s so full of killer pollutants that those living along its banks in Uttar PradeshBiharand Bengal are more prone to cancer than anywhere else in the country, says a recent study.

Conducted by the National Cancer Registry Programme (NCRP) under the Indian Council of Medical Research, the national study throws up shocking findings. The river is thick with heavy metals and lethal chemicals that causecancer, it says.

“We know that the incidence of cancer was highest in the country in areas drained by the Ganga. We also know why. Now, we are going deeper into the problem. Hopefully, we’ll be able to present a report to the Union health ministry in a month or two,” NCRP head A Nandkumar said.

The worst-hit stretches are east Uttar Pradesh, the flood plains of Bengal and Bihar. Cancer of the gallbladder, kidneys, food pipe, prostate, liver, kidneys, urinary bladder and skin are common in these parts. These cases are far more common and frequently found here than elsewhere in the country, the study says.

Even more frightening is the finding that gallbladder cancer cases along the river course are the second highest in the world and prostate cancer highest in the country. The survey throws up more scary findings: Of every 10,000 people surveyed, 450 men and 1,000 women were gallbladder cancer patients. Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar’s Vaishali and rural Patna and the extensive tract between Murshidabad and South 24-Parganas in West Bengal are the hot zones. In these parts, of every 1 lakh people surveyed, 20-25 were cancer patients. This is a national high. Relentless discharge of pollutants into the riverbed is responsible.

“This is the consequence of years of abuse. Over years, industries along the river have been releasing harmful effluents into the river. The process of disposing of waste has been arbitrary and unscientific. The river and those living along its banks are paying a price for this indiscretion,” Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute director Jaideep Biswas said. The Kolkata-based cancer institute is an associate of the National Cancer Registry Programme.

Biswas, a senior oncologist, said Ganga water is now laced with toxic industrial discharge such as arsenic, choride, fluoride and other heavy metals. Dipankar Chakarabarty, director, Jadavpur University School of Environmental Studies, concurs. “We’ve been extremely careless. Indiscriminate release of industrial effluents is to blame for this.”

“The arsenic that’s gets into the river doesn’t flow down. Iron and oxygen present in the water form ferroso ferric oxide, which in turn bonds with arsenic. This noxious mix settles on the riverbed. Lead and cadmium are equally heavy and naturally sink in the river. This killer then leeches back into the groundwater, making it poisonous,” Chakrabarty explains.

Surface water, Chakrabarty explains, is treated before use. But that’s clearly not the case with groundwater and it’s mostly consumed raw, often straight from source. The impact is devastating. “The consequences of using or drinking this poison can manifest earliest in two years and latest in 20. But by then, it’s way too late.” Those who’ve been bathing in this poison river are equally at danger, says Biswas. The need of the hour is to strictly implement laws regulating discharge of industrial waste into the river.

 

Indian girl trapped in life of cigarette rolling


A pack of Bidi cigarettes

A pack of Bidi cigarettes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By RAVI NESSMAN
Associated Press

DHULIYAN, India — Sagira Ansari sits on a dusty sack outside her uneven brick home in this poor town in eastern India, her legs folded beneath her. She cracks her knuckles, then rubs charcoal ash between her palms.

With the unthinking swiftness of a movement performed countless times before, she slashes a naked razor blade into a square-cut leaf to trim off the veins. She drops in flakes of tobacco, packs them with her thumbs, rolls the leaf tightly between her fingers and ties it off with two twists of a red thread.

For eight hours a day, Sagira makes bidis – thin brown cigarettes that are as central to Indian life as chai and flat bread.

She is 11 years old.

Sagira is among hundreds of thousands of children toiling in the hidden corners of rural India. Many work in hazardous industries crucial to the economy: the fiery brick kilns that underpin the building industry, the pesticide-laden fields that produce its food.

Most of the children in Sagira’s town of Dhuliyan in West Bengal state work in the tobacco dust to feed India’s near limitless demand for bidis.

Under Indian law, this is legal.

Sagira, who has deep brown eyes and a wide smile, joined her family’s bidi work when she was seven. At first she just rolled out thread for her older sisters and brother, then she helped finish off the cigarettes, pushing down the open ends. Last year, she graduated to full-scale rolling.

She is not alone. Her best friend, Amira, also rolls bidis. So do Wasima and Jaminoor and the rest of the girls in a neighborhood that is, at its heart, a giant, open-air bidi factory.

Parents and children roll cigarettes on rooftops, in the alleyways, by the roads. One woman draped in a red shawl in the yard behind Sagira’s house breast feeds her baby while rolling. Of the roughly 20,000 families in Dhuliyan, an estimated 95 percent roll bidis to survive.

Sagira is expert enough that even when distracted, her fingers continue to flit blindly through the tobacco shavings in front of her.

She says the work can make her ill, with a cold, a cough, a fever. Her head often aches. So do her fingers.

Sometimes, she takes her woven basket of tendu leaves and tobacco to the banks of the Ganges to roll in a circle with her friends. She stops every so often to splash in the river for a few moments. Then she gets back to work.

“I can’t play around,” she laments.

Manu Seikh, the bidi king of Sagira’s neighborhood, sits on a roadside bench. In front of him lie orderly stacks of rupee bills – tens, fifties, hundreds – large bags filled with one- and two-rupee coins and a small box holding his asthma inhaler.

He and thousands of middlemen like him are the linchpins that provide the veneer of legality to the bidi industry, insulating the powerful companies selling bidis from the families and children rolling them.

Seikh, 66, got his start in a bidi factory when he was 16, back when bidis were rolled on the factory floor.

A 1986 law barred children under 14 from working with bidis and other hazardous industries, but left a huge loophole that allowed children to assist their families with work performed at home.

So now, while the tobacco is threshed, cut and blended in factories, it is then given to Seikh and other middlemen to distribute to families for rolling. The bidis are then brought back to the factory for roasting, packaging and shipping. A pack of 10 to 12 will retail for 6 rupees, or 12 cents.

The informal nature of the work makes it nearly impossible to count how many of India’s 7 million bidi rollers are children, but estimates range from 250,000 to 1 million.

Every noon, adults and children carry baskets and tubs filled with bundles of bidis to Seikh’s corner stall, where his men scan them for quality, reject those deemed substandard and stack the others in shallow wooden boxes. A bookkeeper makes a note in a ledger and hands over a chit for payment.

Then the rollers receive more tobacco and tendu leaves for another day’s work.

Seikh blames poverty for forcing the children to work, and the government for failing to stop it.

“I am very concerned about children not going to school and losing their futures. But we are helpless,” Seikh says.

In his nearby factory, Ranjan Choudhary, 37, also distances himself from blame, even as boys aged about 7 or 8 slide bidis into plastic pouches and seal them on a small stove.

Whatever the child labor laws say, he sees the industry as “a lifeline” for the people.

“It affects children, but for them to survive, this is the only industry here. There is no other source of income,” he said.

The industry’s chief trade group also brushed off responsibility.

“The child has every right to help the mother. As long as we don’t recruit the children to roll bidis, I don’t think we violate any act,” said Umesh Parekh, chief executive of the All India Bidi Industry Federation.

Bidi rollers should “themselves exercise restraint” in using children, he said, adding that his trade group had no plans to fight against child labor.

“The industry is not doing anything for that. It is for the government to do,” he said.

The government is reevaluating its child labor policy, said Mrutyunjay Sarangi, India’s labor secretary, but had yet to decide on any concrete action.

“We are having discussions,” he said.

India has tacitly recognized this Dickensian nightmare with a recent law making education compulsory up to age 14, said Bhavna Mukhopadhya of the Voluntary Health Association of India, an aid group. “Everything has a time, and I think this is the right time to do it … you have to ban child labor across the board, strictly,” she said.

But efforts to change the labor laws are complicated by the bidi industry’s clout in government. One company owner even sits in the national Cabinet.

Sagira’s town was once a textile center where her family for generations wove scarves and sarongs on hand looms.

Mired in poverty, they lived in a mud and thatch hut and could afford only a single meal a day for their 12 children. “We were starving,” said Sagira’s father, Mahmood Ansari.

Then the Ganges caused flooding that destroyed the family’s house – and its loom.

Meanwhile, merchants from other states realized the cheap labor here would be ideal for bidi work.

Sagira’s grandfather turned to bidi rolling, then her father when he turned 12.

Now, every day at 8 a.m., Sagira, her 17-year-old brother and sisters aged 18 and 14 begin a four-hour rolling session. They stop to bathe and have lunch, spend a few hours cutting the tendu leaves into neat squares and then roll for a few more hours.

Because of bidis, his seven children are far better off than he was, Ansari said.

The family gets 75 rupees ($1.50) for every 1,000 bidis rolled, totaling about $150 a month. That’s enough for three meals a day, with a little fish or egg once a week. A few months ago, Ansari used loans to replace the home of tarps and sticks his family had lived in for two decades with an unfinished two-room house of brick and plaster with dirt floors.

But there is not much hope for Sagira’s future.

She’s only been to school twice in the past month; she’s too busy, her mother, Alea Bibi, said. She only goes when there’s a reason, when new books are being handed out or to register for the aid the government gives to bidi rollers as an incentive to educate their children.

When she does show up, she is humiliated for her absences, made to hold her ears with her elbows outstretched and repeatedly sit down and stand up. It doesn’t work, yet each year she graduates to the next grade, regardless of her attendance.

She barely knows math, but can at least count to 25, the number of bidis in a finished bundle.

But at night, after the work is done, her brother, who rarely attends school himself, uses her schoolbooks to teach her to read.

She dreams of being a schoolteacher.

Far more likely, she will get faster at rolling bidis, which will improve her marriage prospects. Then, as so often happens here, her husband might stop working, and she – and eventually her own children – will become the bidi-rolling breadwinners.

Her father sees no way to break the cycle.

“We are destined to roll bidis,” he said.

Follow Nessman at http://www.twitter.com/ravinessman