Veteran Environmental activist G D Agarwal died at a Rishikesh hospital on Thursday, 111 days after he began a fast for a pollution-free Ganga. He was 86.
Agarwal, who began his hunger strike on June 22 demanding government measures to save the Ganga, died of a heart attack at the All India Institute of medical Sciences in Uttarakhand's Rishikesh, its director Ravi Kant said.
The activist was admitted to hospital on Wednesday after he even gave up water.
Local authorities imposed Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which bans the assembly of people, around the venue of the protest and he was picked up and taken to hospital.
Dr Ravi Kant said Agarwal suffered from hernia, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease and the fast worsened his condition.
G D Agarwal, also known as Swami Gyanswaroop Sanand in his later years, had been a professor at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur and served on the Central Pollution Control Board.
He was protesting against hydroelectric projects on the Ganga's tributaries and had demanded a law to protect the river.
Earlier, he had rejected a plea from Haridwar MP Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank to end the fast, following assurances on his demands from the Centre.
Agarwal had been campaigning for the Ganga for several years and undertook a similar fast earlier as well.
A day before Agarwal died, Union Water Resources and Ganga River Rejuvenation Minister Nitin Gadkari said almost all his demands had been met and he had written a letter to the activist to give up his fast.
On Tuesday, the Centre came out with a gazette notification stating the minimum environmental flow that is to be maintained at various locations on the Ganga.
The second demand, Gadkari said, was to bring a legislation to protect Ganga.
He said the legislation has been sent to Cabinet for approval, following which it will be tabled in Parliament.
"He had some demands related to (upcoming) hydro-power projects (on river Ganga). We are trying to bring all stakeholders together and sort the issue at the earliest.
“I had also written a letter to him stating that we have accepted nearly 70-80 per cent and that we need him and he should stop his fast," the minister had said.
Reacting to the Ganga crusader's death, Aam Aadmi Party MP Sanjay Singh said an ‘insensitive government’ was ‘waiting’ for him to die.
Senior Congress leader and former environment minister Jairam Ramesh expressed anguish over the activist's ‘martyrdom’.
"He was an indefatigable crusader not only for Nirmal Ganga but also for Aviral Ganga (free-flowing Ganga). It was my privilege and good fortune to be able to implement some of his important suggestions to ensure uninterrupted flow in the Ganga and its tributaries in Uttarakhand,” Ramesh said.
A few years ago, the activist adopted Swami Gyanswaroop Sanand as his name.
As he continued the fast continued, on September 9, Agarwal announced he will give up water in October.
The National Mission for Clean Ganga officials then talked with him and Congress president Rahul Gandhi expressed support for his cause.
Agarwal had pledged his organs for medical research at the AIIMS in Rishikesh, the hospital director said.
Targeting the Centre over Agarwal's death, Pravin Togadia, erstwhile Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader and a known critic of the Modi government, said the Ganga activist deserved a better treatment.
"But it seems, rulers have become absolutely arrogant and unmindful for the public. Similar treatment was meted out to Ayodhya Mahant Paramhans Das ji. Farmers, labour, students, middle class all facing injustice now.
“We pray for Prof Agarwal ji's peace and appeal to the rulers to be sensitive to the public," Togadia, who now heads the Antarrashtriya Hindu Parishad, said.