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Tapasya Gyanganga Lecture Series 2012-2013


India’s waterman, Magsaysay Award winning Rajendra Singh made an impassioned plea to the youth to throw away the yoke of divisions that beset this great country and latch on to more positive thoughts to rid the country of its woes.  He was speaking at the second Tapasya Gyanganga Lecture in the series initiated by the Indira Group of Institutes, under the auspices of the journal, Tapasya.

Addressing the students of the Indira Group on October 19, 2012, on the subject India’s Water Woes : Template of Solutions, Singh said that the British practiced a sophisticated art of de-culturising the country by systematically ruining the Ganges at Benares by forcing the people to empty the city’s waste water into it, in the name of the beautification of the town. This, in the face of stiff opposition by Mr Madan Mohan Malviya who fell into a minority of one while opposing the plan of Mr Hawkins, Commissioner of Benares.  And there began the degradation of the rivers in India, first by the British rulers and then by the home grown rulers who took over from them in the guise of running the world’s biggest democracy – a pernicious practice that is continuing today, only on a much larger scale as it involves virtually all the rivers of the country! As an example, he cited the city of Pune which had five free flowing rivers at one time, which have today been converted into free flowing nullahs where spending a minute on their banks is a tough ask given the putrid stink and punishing sight of debris and junk in its belly.

The wisdom of the ancients in managing their water sources was avidly explained by Rajendra Singh who said the local population was the arbiter of all their needs and decided the best way to manage the water supply in the village without interference from the powers that be.  However, today India is following a top down model of democracy which serves no one but the rulers who decide everything from the need for resource crunching and polluting  dams to the actual quantum of water to be supplied to individual towns and cities, instead of trusting the wisdom of the local populations to make their own choices.

In stark contrast to the modern day water wars being fought in court battles by States and the international community, he quoted his experiences in the parched deserts of Rajasthan where he was instrumental in revitalizing five rivers which had run dry for over 60 years with the help of the local population and without the involvement of the state or local authorities. The villages which were abandoned by the local population were resettled and brought to life with the revival of these rivers. Continuing in the same vein, he said however, on the rivers becoming live again, the State Government was quick to spot the opportunity to earn a quick buck by leasing out the land on the river banks to commercial interests. However, the united strength of the populace against the proposal put an end to the authorities’ plans. He was unsparing in his criticism  of the Government for its handling of the Ganga Action plan which poured thousands of crores into the plan, but ended up further toxifying the river with the result that the Ganga,  a once medicinal river, was today spewing cancer and disability among the population, with nothing to show for the much tom-tommed Action Plan!

The address triggered a wave of emotions and interest with the interactive session overflowing into further discussions on various aspects of India’s water issues such as river linking projects, water sharing between States, and the disputes with neighbouring countries on sharing river waters!

Dr Pandit Mali, Director, IIMP, welcomed Mr Rajendra Singh, while Mr P G Vijairaghavan, Editor, Tapasya, and Convenor, Tapasya Gyanganga Lecture Series introduced the guest, Mr Pranav Vyas, HOD, Indira Institute of Management proposed a vote of thanks.

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