For always time the religious functionaries have cited excuses of services to god to extenuate the damage done to the Ganges, the holiest river in the world. The practice of dirtying the river is almost as old as the origin of Hinduism. Priests and devotees have together contributed to this practice that now is so rampant and deeply engraved in the mind and soul of the people that they very well might indict any sign of contradiction to their credo. The blatant truth, however, remains the fact that in their quest to “Dignify” their holy mother they have actually been “Dingy-fying” it.
The situation is so bleak today that an educated person would now think a hundred times (before drinking) on being offered water from this holy river. Though the process of polluting the river is all-pervasive, the situation exacerbates especially in the month of January when the holy-fairs stroll in. The Magh-Melas, Kumbhs and Maha-Kumbhs provide for a platform for a quick surge in the amount of pollutants ditched off into the river. The High-court rules, Municipal assurances and communal resolutions all are cordoned-off and people indulge in the religious spree that expedites the process and the Magh-Mela and municipal authorities haven’t yet been able to come up with any concrete measures to curb it. The period also sees exponential increase in the number of plastic bags released into the Ganges.
Another facet of this multi-faceted crisis is the releasing of dead-bodies in the Ganga waters to ensure a holy parting to the deceased. The procedure, on one hand provides another means to puff-up the dirtying process and on the other glues a morbid picture in the minds of children/foreigners who accidently happen to come across the floating dead bodies.
In today’s context, where people honour religion even more than they do their own lives, it is next to impossible to coax them out of these religious rites, especially when they have been following the rituals since thousands of years B.C. For them these rites and rituals form a set of dogma which they would do almost anything to follow
The sole solution lies in education. Mere dissemination of the idea - that how malignant this creed is - down around the public might prove to be futile unless they have a clear understanding of how relevant and called-for their abstinence in today’s scenario is. Incorporating environmental studies in all primary classes’ curriculum (and maybe with special reference to the Ganges) could be one step, creating general public awareness through rallies and Abhiyaans might be another.
Consider for example the Narmadaa Bachaao Andolan; though the mission didn't achieve enough to be an epitome that could be cited, there are evidences of tangible awareness the movement helped procure. Some efforts, while already being made by the NGO(s), need to be ramped-up to cater to the need of the hour.
We need to understand these pressing issues while we still can, lest the religious rites turn sacrilegious.