They demand resumption of work on power projects in Uttarakhand by May 20

Three Padma Shri awardees on Friday threatened begin a fast from May 21 if the government did not resume work on power projects in Uttarakhand by May 20.

The announcement has become all the more important as several women on dharna at the Vishnugad–Pipalkoti project site have threatened self-immolation if work is not resumed immediately.

Chairperson of the Rural Litigation and entitlement Kendra Avdhash Kaushal; the former Vice-Chancellor of the HNB Garhwal University, A.N. Purohit; and noted poet Leela Dhar also threatened to return their awards on Independence Day if no justice was done. Agar zinda rahe to yeh khokla samman lauta dengey“We will return this pseudo-honour if we stay alive till August 15,” they said.

Speaking to journalists here, they said: “Enough is enough. We have seen the government buckling under the pressure of the anti-India lobby. We will accept [environmentalist] G.D. Aggarwal's demands, if he… asks all his saffron friends to stop using electricity, as that too come from the Ganga. The hundreds of five-star ashrams in Haridwar and Rishikesh should stop discharging muck into the Ganga; above all, the sadhus should stop disposing of the dead holy men into the rivers in the name of jal samadhi.”

Electric crematoria sought

Mr. Kaushal wanted the government to establish electric crematoria all along rivers to prevent disposal of bodies in them. This would reduce pollution of rivers and save trees from being used as fuel.

Mr. Jagudi wanted the Uttarakhandis to assert their rights in the Gandhian way. “Uttarakhandis have always been simple, peace-loving people, and their simplicity should not be exploited.”

Professor Purohit wanted the government to tap the human and natural resources of the hill State. “We are rich in both; what the State needs are a selfless leader who could lead it to prosperity.”

Rajesh Togadia of the Jan Manch threatened a separate agitation if those in power did not pay heed to local aspirations.

The Central and State governments have scrapped three major hydel projects in Uttarkashi — 600-MW Lohari Nagpala, 480-MW Pala Maneri and 381-MW Bhaironghati — under pressure from G.D. Aggarwal, an environmentalist who became a sanyasi in 2011, taking the name of Swami Swaroop Sanand.

After forcing a halt to the projects in Chamoli and Pauri districts, he is demanding the scrapping of all hydel projects in Uttarakhand.