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He died for the Ganges. Did 'mining mafia' kill him?


An Indian boatman is seen near the polluted river water of The Ganges at Sangam, the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati rivers in Allahabad on April 22, 2010.Earth Day urges local action and increased awareness to understand and respect the environment. India, with its 1.2 billion citizens, faces challenges from rapid urbanisation and industrialisation, such as pollution, sanitation and water supply, as well as degradation of forests and agricultural lands, and is already the world's fifth largest carbon emitter despite a low per capita share.



Unlike Baba Ramdev's fast, Swami Nigamananda's fast to save the Ganges from destruction by polluters went mostly unnoticed -- even here in India. But his death earlier this month exposed a tale as murky as the filthy waters of India's holiest river, reports Tehelka

According to an investigative report by the magazine, private companies are blatantly violating laws that limit stone and sand mining to state-owned corporations, which are restricted from using machinery to dredge out the river. Despite half-a-dozen state agencies mandated to regulate the stone-picking and crushing industry, private mining firms in Haridwar use heavy machinery for dredging, robbing the state of revenue. But that's not all. "The rampant mining has also depleted the groundwater level, deepened the riverbed, made thousands of acres of farmland uncultivable, destroyed the neighbouring forests, polluted the air and forced hundreds of farmers to migrate, having sold their lands to the same mafia for a pittance," said the magazine, which also detailed the connections between various local politicians and the so-called "mining mafia."

Earlier this month, some of Swami Nigamananda's family members and followers alleged that he might have been poisoned before he slipped into a coma after two-and-a-half months of fasting in protest against violation of the mining laws to protect the holy river.

A subsequent post mortem said the holy man "died due to coma, Septicaemia and degenerative brain disorder," but the official finding did not convince some of Nigamanda's supporters.