Clean Ganga Drive
Dr SK Pandey from Lucknow
'Ganga Action Pariwar’ under the patronship of Swami Chidanand Saraswati ‘Muni Ji’ of Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh, has designed an ambitious project for performing ‘Antim Samskar’, the last rituals of a dead, in such a way that Ganga is less affected by the impurities – reducing the load of dead bodies, half-burned dead bodies and last rite wastage on the Ganga river. Not only that, the objective is to ensure dignified Antim Samskar for every dead body including that of even from the poorest among families.
Under the active supervision of Shri Ram Badan Dwivedi, the Ganga Action Pariwar plans to involve the community, Panchayats and Civic bodies also in the management of their plan and its management in the catchment areas. Ganga, Yamuna and their tributaries are likely to benefit from the project. The entire Gangeya Pradesh – the land of Ganga, Yamuna and tributaries – involving 9 states – Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand , Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal will be covered.
The project envisages two stages. The first stage will be complete burning of the dead bodies (Agni Samskar) at appropriately developed and community approved cremation centre at commonly accessible point from the villages but fairly away (as much as possible) from the bank of the river. The second stage will be Jal Visarjan (emersion in the river’s flow) of some part of last rite ashes in respective rivers.
The project will need some very challenging tasks. For burning the bodies it will be necessary to ensure uninterrupted supply of relatively high voltage electricity to the electric crematorium, and to have compost pits to provide safe and eco friendly disposal of other dead body associated wastage.
The most challenging part will be to make an awareness and prepare the religious-minded community to accept the new process of cremation and to work for awareness building among all community members, irrespective of their socio-economic status. It will also be required to make it Self Help Group based, and make available the community-sponsored sustainable common pool of fund for meeting recurring expenditure at that cremation centre.
The Ganga Action Pariwar will have to anticipate alternative livelihood skills development and financial support in the form of fixed fee to the priests who will have to be trained for performing approved standardised last rite rituals. They will have to entrust responsibility on the ‘Cremation Center Committee’ for keeping all-round vigilance and awareness campaign among all the stake-holders as well as community members, in favour of keeping the river free from human dead body, half-burnt dead body and last rite wastage load so as to keep the Mother Ganga clean.
Ganga Action Pariwar also envisages research in the field of durable, low cost, minimum carbon emitting, fuel efficient and culturally accepted cremation stand made as well as maintained by local resources either in the form of materials or skilled man power.
Needless to say that Ganga and Yamuna and their over 2000 tributaries, sub-tributaries have been the fundamental source of agriculture on the surface land. Such lands are relatively less on hills, more on foothills and entirely on plain belt of North India. Gangetic belt, historically known as Gangeya Pradesh is the mother home and also a testimony of the evolution of the richest bio-diversities, oldest and historically considered as the most developed form of nature friendly civilisation. This civilisation has been known for highest developed philosophy, culture, heritages, art and human-nature harmony. Over 2550 kms long and equally broad stretch of this Gangatic plain has, since times immemorial been the habitat for the most dense population on the earth.
Unfortunately, such great Ganga-Yamuna and the tributaries which are the life line of this important part of Bharat, is facing most unprecedented dangers on its very existence. The poor people are not able to afford the complex Karmkand/Rituals amidst differences in the way of performing Antim Sanskar. Meeting out the expenditure is beyond the capacity of around 1/3rd population and beyond the comfortable limits of 55-60 per cent population in the country. There has been high increase in volume of dead bodies, even though the death rate has declined to around 71 per cent but population has gone up to 1.2 billion.
Fortunately, alternatives and improved technology, reforming rituals, standardised training of last rite performers and development of almost uniform community owned crematorium centres are either available or needs relatively more manageable improvement and motivational cum resource mobilisation.
The Ganga Action Pariwar feels that it needs only once externally funded non-recurring grant for its expenditure. Then it is possible to attain self sufficiency in meeting out recurring expenditure of that cremation centres with the pooling of resources from the catchment area for the cause of its own people. This is easier in the light of already existing tendency of offering generous donation or making extra expenditure on community food after last rite (Mrityu Bhoj) by rich and others in the name or on account of departed soul as the customary duty.
The project also envisages better collaboration of GAP with community, cooperation among community segments, coordination of entire community with all stake holders and external resource agencies. This empowers all segments of community to become efficient partners for the Sankalp of dead bodies, half burnt dead bodies and last rite wastage free Ganga-Yamuna and their tributaries.
The Ganga Action Pariwar wants mobilisation, construction and use of community owned self-sustainable crematorium in rural areas for dignified two stages cremation with nominal registration fee (Rs 21 inclusive all expenditure at cremation centers.
It will be required gradually to phase out the wood fuel based traditional and river polluting energy intensive crematorium in urban area by modern electric crematorium with culturally accepted but standardised last rite rituals. What is to be ensured is 24-hour high voltage electric supply with separate transformer, exclusively for the electric crematorium
The plan also includes strong and sustained advocacy with country/state/district level dignitaries as well as opinion leaders, series of motivational meetings cum discourses/ lectures in academic institutions and confidence building campaign for all related issues at all possible level. The crucial part of all this will be to obtain wider scale consensus of Dharmacharyas, Karmakandis, Purohits and scholars.
It is learnt that ‘Parmarth Niketan’ has designed training on ‘last rite performing Purohitas’, to publish the standardised Karmakand books, and to prepare 3-5 minute documentary film on eco-friendly crematorium.