Top BJP leaders Shri LK Advani, Shri Nitin Gadkari, Smt Sushma Swaraj, Shri Arun Jaitley, Sushri Uma Bharati, Shri BC Khanduri, Shri Bhagat Singh Koshyari and Dr Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ met Prime Minister in New Delhi on July 7.
As part of its Save Ganga Campaign, a high level delegation of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders met Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in New Delhi to seek his intervention in saving the ancient Dhari Devi Shrine of Uttarakhand which is facing the threat of submergence in Srinagar Dam in Garhwal.
The top BJP leaders including Shri LK Advani, Shri Nitin Gadkari, Smt Sushma Swaraj, Shri Arun Jaitley, Sushri Uma Bharti, Shri BC Khanduri, Shri Bhagat Singh Koshyari, Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ told the Prime Minister that the BJP is not opposed to the hydroelectric and other development projects along the Ganga but is opposed to the measures that lead to extinction of the river’s ecology and cultural spiritual heritage along its banks.
In a memorandum presented to the Prime Minister the BJP also demanded that Uttarakhand be given 2,000MW of free power from the Centre to cater to its needs as many hydel projects cannot be built on river Ganges, which is viewed as a national heritage. Further, it cited the fate of the Ganga Action Plan (GAP) to demand that the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) be given a “specific and time bound mandate” to make Ganga nirmal aviral (clean and relentless). They also demanded that the Ganga be maintained as an international heritage site.
Welcoming the Government’s move to declare Ganga as the National River, the party said that it should be done through an Act of the Parliament. Monitoring of the implementation of the decisions taken by the NGRBA the party emphasised that it should be entrusted to an independent constitutional body. The party also said that the composition of the NGRBA should be broad based to include respected members of the aastha community—cultural-spiritual leaders who are knowledgeable about, and deeply committed to, the broader civilisational importance of the Ganga.
Former Chief Minister of Uttarakhand Shri BC Khanduri told Organiser that the Prime Minister has asked the Environment Minister Jayanti Natrajan to look into the matter and get a fresh Detailed Project Report (DPR) prepared so that the Dhari Devi Shrine is saved. Shri Khanduri claimed that in the earlier DPR, the Dhari Devi Shrine was not being submerged but it will get submerged in the dam as per the new report.
Dhari Devi Temple is situated on the banks of River Alaknanda, at a distance of about 15 Km from Srinagar (Pauri Garhwal) on the Srinagar Badrinath Highway, perched atop a 20 meter high rock. The temple attracts tens of thousand devotees on their way to Badrinath. Shri Khanduri pointed out that the shrine is visited by all devotees visiting Badrinath, Kedarnath and Hemkunth.
“The PM has assured us that the Dhari Devi Shrine will be protected and not be allowed to be submerged. The Shrinagar Dam will also be built and Dhari Devi will also be saved,” Shri Khanduri maintained.
Sushri Uma Bharati later said that under the Save Ganga Campaign, she would undertake a yatra from August 24 to October 31st from Gangasagar to Gangotri. As part of the campaign, the BJP has been seeking review of hydropower projects especially in eco-sensitive Himalayan region and enactment of a Law in the Parliament declaring Ganga a national heritage.
It is to be noted that Sushri Uma Bharati conducted fast in Haridwar for the protection of the Ganga and the Dhari Devi Temple in May last year. She started the fast on May 10, 2011 raising prominently three issues—saving Dhari Devi Temple from submersion in the 330 MW Alaknanda Hydro Project Reservoir, constitution of a separate Ganga Board to maintain the sanctity of the holy river and to look into the construction of the hydropower projects and the involvement of the experts and saints in the proposed Board. She broke her fast on May 18 only after the persuasion by the saints and the then Chief Minister Dr Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ who accepted one of her demands of protecting the Dhari Devi Temple. Under the aegis of Maa Ganga Sewa Abhiyan, Uma Bharati initiated a countrywide campaign to save the Ganga from April, 2011.
She has been demanding that to preserve the heritage of the historic Dhari Devi Temple the height of the dam should be reduced. Dhari Devi is revered as life saving deity by the pilgrims who visit the temple. Hence, it is imperative to conserve the temple by all means. Dhari Devi Temple is the seat of faith for countless Hindus not only in the country but for those settled across the world. This ancient temple has also withstood the vicissitudes of time and is now under threat of submersion or relocation from the GVK Hydro Power Project in Srinagar. With profit making at play, the company talks of elevating the temple. However, for its devotees the site of the shrine is sacrosanct. We cannot just let our house of worship be relocated at the hands of builders, she said.
Resting on a rock, about 20 meters high, by the tranquil waters of the Alaknanda the unassuming temple of Dhari Devi has a mystic charm of its own, deriving from the interesting legend passed over generations among the mountain people.