Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Sant Who Believes In Some Direct Action

Baba Seechewal now slams 
Pollution Control Board, says he 
will plug the polluting rivulet 
himself since govt doesn’t 
want to. Clearly, it’s a war cry
Sukhjit Kaur

JALANDHAR: At a time when Arundhati Roy is talking about Gandhians with Guns, Punjab is witnessing a clear revolt by a Sant who, tired of the unholy nexus of the powerful with the corporates, is not shy of calling the spade a bloody shovel. Further, he plans to do something about it and has served notice.
Green crusader and Punjab Pollution Control Board member, Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal, who commands a strong following of thousands of devotees, has been fighting to stop the flow of untreated waste into the Kala Sanghian drain by the district administration and pollution control authorities have done precious little except assure him repeatedly, set new deadlines and making a show of their respect for Baba Seechewal.
Now, Seechewal has made clear that he cares little for such shows of respect which mean little. Accompanied by panchayats and people from villages that have been suffering because of the polluted water, Seechewal landed at the site himself and announced that he will wait no more and his devotees will plug the rivulet themselves.
The drain that flows between Gazipur and Chamiara carries a massive 12.9 crore liters of untreated effluents from industry and municipal corporations at any given time. 
Seechewal minced no words in even slamming the Board of which he is a member, underlining that it is not always possible to co-op everyone with a conscience into the system and corrupt him suitably.
Seechewal said he and the villagers have persistently taken up the issue for two years, but authorities chose to put thousands of lives at risk. In the Malwa belt and in Rajasthan, natives drink this water for want of an alternative water  source.
“People living in the 80 and more villages along the banks of the drain, which courses Doaba and Malwa region and part of Rajasthan, have suffered increasing incidence of respiratory diseases, skin, kidney, hair disorders and cancer for over 15 years, but the government has failed to act against industrial units. Let the cities handle their effluents themselves. Villagers will not allow it to flow into their territory,” he said. “If they can’t treat the water they have no right to throw dirty water in a natural drain and it is clearly illegal,” Baba Seechewal said. 
Seechewal’s warnings earlier had brought matters to a head in February 2008 and he no more ready to rest with deadlines.
Earlier, March 31 was the deadline given by the officials to stop flow of a major chunk of untreated water in the drain, which was then extended to April 30 and later to May 31 but nothing has been done even though even June has come and gone.
Seechewal and his associates Baba Sukhwant Singh, Baba Daya Singh and other religious personalities put down the inaction to the government’s alleged covert understanding with the industry and the mineral water mafia.
Strangely, Deputy Commissioner Priyank Bharti claimed he was not aware of the matter, thus only proving the disconnect between the people and the authorities.

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