” Mother Ganga: Dip of Salvation or Sip of Death” by Dr Abdul Jamil Khan
To a doctor, in me and 1000s others Ganga river seems beyond repair or restoration, but for 100s of millions along its course in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Bengal, it is the life line,only source of water.For other millions of Hindus, it remains ‘holiest of holy’ and its one dip cleans all sins and guarantees
Nirvana or heaven ala Muslim’s pilgrimage -Haj to Mecca.
As the big preparation for the holy ‘Maha Kumbh’ or great bathing festival ( one in 12 yrs) is in top gear in my home town Allahabad where some 12 millions ( largest gathering anywhere) will be housed and catered I cannot help but be regressed into nostalgic childhood helping pilgrims some 50-60 yrs ago as ‘ volunteer scout’ with many of my Hindu-Muslim friends. Many of my buddies had taught me that Ganges water due its divine-spiritual purity is resistant to disease causing deadly germs
and can cure diseases, an idea as firm even now. We see a brisk trade in ‘Ganga jal or water’ now nicely packed in plastic bottles with a picture of lord Shiva (Hindu God),his hair locks and emerging river Ganga from his head.
A skeptic in me opposing holy myths of all(Hindu,Muslim,Jew) now feel vindicated a bit when I ponder over the governmental data released last week ( times of India Oct 17, 2012) but my sadness overwhelms my feelings.
National cancer institute or NCI of India has revealed that Ganga’s water is toxic and cause of “highest cancer rate” in India among those living along the course of the holy river. Dr Nand Kumar, the head of National cancer registry programme ( NCRP) has said ” the frequency of all kind of cancers, including that of gall bladder,kidney,esophagus( food pipe),liver, prostrate, skin, urinary bladder are much higher in areas of east Uttar Pradesh in Varanasi and plains of Bihar,west Bengal than in other parts of India”. Latter report in times of India, indeed becomes frightening when one reads some stats as follows:
Incidence of gallbladder cancer second highest in India but second highest in the world.
- - Every 10,000 people surveyed, an staggering 450 men,1000 women had gall bladder cancer.
- - prostrate cancer second highest in India.
- - In this cancerous zones, in every 100,000 persons
- - 20-25 were cancer patients, highest in nation.
Indian scientists at NCI or NCRP and other universities naturally blame the perennial relentless discharge of untreated sewage, industrial pollutants in the holy river. Cities, like Meerut, Kanpur, have major chemical industries, leather tanneries along Ganges. Besides these the toxic waste and sewage of Delhi, Agra etc discharged in the other river Jamna or Yumana also is finally discharged into holy Ganges at Sangam, the holy confluence at Allahabad, the site of
upcoming festival of holy dip.
An analysis of main pollutants, reveals that industrial toxins include a heavy load of arsenic,lead, iron, fluorides, cadmium, that sink down to under ground water which is the source of drinking water in all ares along the river basin. Dr D Chakarbarti, a scientist says that IRON as ferrous/ferric oxides, binds the free dissolved oxygen and after depleting the oxygen settles down in the river bed. Besides this it is clear to have deleterious impact of marine life itself, likes fish.
Govt of India, off course enjoys keeping the scientists happy. They enjoy collecting the statistics for their Phd’s and faculty promotions but there is hardly any action. Some NGOs ( non govt organizations) more emotional to their faith in holy Ganges try their sincerity and activate politicians and well connected administrators.
Dr Nakul Chandra, a famous pediatric heart specialist of new jersey, a friend and a buddy from Lucknow medical college, who having spent about 15 yrs in ground root social works in Varanasi with free vaccination in schools, distribution of sewing machines among power women etc has recently initiated a movement to clean the holy Ganges He has drawn some attention to this worth while venture.
A recent English movie with English actors produced by him has the necessary focuss of
importance of Holy Varanasi his home town and Ganga’s pollution. According to him some politicians have been influenced by it. Some action hopefully will be a welcome follow up.
Holy Ganges, has remained an hot topic of debate between secularist and spiritualist. Very clearly, millions of jobs, and economy of cities of Allahabad , Varanasi etc are tied up with the ‘ hindu faith’ of holy rivers as had been the faith in man’s oldest civilization of NILE valley where holy nile with assumed birth from God/heaven perhaps RA was worshiped ala holy Ganges.
Religiousfaiths have their own critical value in human system and also linked to secular ‘economy’ loved by wall street. Thus who cares about the incidences of cancers when a dip or sip holy water remains an insurance of most important thing for a common man–Salvation, Nirvana, haven or Jannat. Lastly but not the least is the truth that germs dont grow in Ganga’s holy water’. A scientist in me is more than convinced now . Depleted of oxygen and nutrient how any life can survive ? Germs are single cell simple creature of God who is being tough for them as well.