Friday, 23 June 2017

Where are the commons?

Where are the commons? 


From land to creative spaces, our commons are being fenced by encroachers and even the state

The tension between ownership to tangible and intangible property and the enjoyment of the commons by all is not a new phenomenon. Fences could not have been there when land came into existence. Fences came later, encumbrances came later and so did title deeds and patta. Kuthambai, one of the ancient learned Siddhars, sang songs seemingly simple but layered with philosophical and metaphysical subtexts. One goes like this: “Vetta veli thannil meyyenrirupporkku pattayam edukkadi? (What would the one who has realised Infinite Space do with certificates of ownership?)” He was of course singing about a different space, not about tangible property like land.
Even after man felt that there was need for fences and certificates of ownership, he still recognised that some lands must be kept in common for use by all or for the sake of all. In medieval England they were called commons, a resource to be enjoyed by all. These lands and the non-arable lands were classified in Tamil as “poramboke”. The protest song “Porambokku enakku illai porambokku unakku illai porambokku oorukku porambokku bhoomikku” is about this commons and how the commons are diminishing. The words “mandai veli” and “maattuthaavani” are poignant echoes to a time when cattle had access to grazing grounds. Not now, those areas are covered by concrete structures. If we could divine the thoughts of our cattle, we would know they are wondering why their lives are protected with such violence and vehemence when all they want is grass.

Encroachment all around

Shifting gear to bring the Siddhar’s query to lands on hand, how can patta be granted to the commons? But commons are being fenced with grim determination not just by private encroachers but even by the state with its irresistible might. The poramboke song is really a protest against the encroachment by state in the Ennore creek which must be kept in the commons. The approved coastal map of the creek shows that no development can be permitted in the water-spread area which covers about 8,000 acres. But already there are thermal plants, oil companies and other such constructions on 1,090 acres of the 8,000 acres which are protected as per the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010. And helplessly we ask like Juvenal, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who guards the guard?)” The rules begin with a preamble about how wetlands are a vital part of the hydrological cycle, how they are seriously threatened by landfills, and overexploitation, and how it is necessary to maintain and conserve the wetlands and aim for ecological balance consistent with the Ramsar Convention (an international treaty on wetlands signed in 1971). Oh yes.
Our beaches in Chennai are open to the public, we think. But last year we read that the Chennai Corporation refused permission to underprivileged children who wanted to play a soccer tournament. This was no permanent construction or encroachment, just few hours of robust and joyous play, for children who had been practising for it. The reason given for refusal was that Olive Ridley turtles would be disturbed by this activity. The tournament was scheduled in September. It was scrapped. Experts said that Olive Ridleys would be thousands of miles away in September, so the alleged disturbance was plainly illusory. Let us now read Article 39(f) of the Constitution which directs the state to ensure that children “are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner”. But those children, who are stuck in spirit-sapping residences, who want to spend their energy in a space that is common to all, were frustrated in their attempt. Then we have reports of growing juvenile delinquency, blind to the reality that a childhood spent without the freedom of playing in open spaces could warp the young minds. Where are the commons for our children who do not hold a patta, where are the poramboke areas open to all in the world?

A creative commons

In the other-worldly world of intellectual property too, shrinking open spaces harm the public well-being. Creative Commons is a concept which enables and facilitates sharing of knowledge and creativity to build a more equitable, accessible, and innovative world within the framework of law. The use of Creative Commons licence for copyright is based on a philosophy of openness and sharing and not on monetising strategies and restrictive ‘fences’. As SpicyIP, a repository on Indian intellectual property law, commented in its blog, the entire exercise of this endeavour is “to place a book in the hands of every child”. In like manner, the soccer tournament in Marina and Besant Nagar was intended to place a ball of joy in the hands of the child.
The 2006 WHO Report on Intellectual Property Rights, Innovation and Public Health found that increasing IP enforcement does not necessarily increase innovation especially in developing countries where the technology expertise has still not reached the optimum level. On the other hand, it is positively detrimental because it restricts access to its consumers, the majority of whom are poor. The price stranglehold, which is the equivalent of fencing and refusing permission to play soccer, causes rippling harm.
Now I come to another space where diminishing commons are positively harmful: access to justice. Section 327 of the Criminal Procedure Code says, “The place in which any Criminal Court is held for the purpose of inquiring into or trying any offence shall be deemed to be an open Court, to which the public generally may have access, so far as the same can conveniently contain them.” The place of justice is meant to be common to all and easily accessible. This too is becoming a luxury not freely accessible, and that is not compatible with the Idea of Democracy.
I will end with the story of a wise woman of Tamil Nadu as I began with a wise man. This woman is barely into her teens. She lives in a small tribal village close to Bandipur. I owe this story to Spicy IP founder Prof. Shamnad Basheer. She had created a new step in her dance. This is an extract of the dialogue between Prof. Basheer and her.
“Do you know that it is something new you have created?”
“Do you want to be known as the one who created the step?”
‘It is ok.’ (She does not care either way.)
“If your classmate passes it off as her innovation, would you mind?”
“Would you fight with her?”
‘Why should I?’
“If she had created a new step, would you pass it off as yours?”
‘Why should I?’
She obviously had a strong ethical core and possessed the wisdom to understand that some spaces must be common to all and unfenced —Vetta veli thannil meyyenrirupporkku pattayam edukkadi. We are losing this Truth.
Prabha Sridevan is a former judge of the Madras High Court



Friday, 16 June 2017

FAFTA and other stories

FAFTA braces for battle against Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership'
THE HANS INDIA |   Jun 16,2017 , 04:03 AM IST

Title : TWN Info: North to try to bury DDA, push e-commerce & MSME talks at MC11
Date : 2017-06-16


TWN Info Service on Trade and UN Sustainable Development
16 June 2017
Third World Network

North to try to bury DDA, push e-commerce & MSME talks at MC11
Published in SUNS #8481 dated 14 June 2017

Geneva, 13 Jun (D. Ravi Kanth) -- Major developed countries and their "allies" in the developing world have intensified efforts to quietly bury the Doha Development Agenda negotiations while launching negotiations on electronic-commerce and micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) at the World Trade Organization's eleventh ministerial conference in Buenos Aires in December, several ministers and trade envoys told SUNS.
Encouraged by the positions adopted by the United States at the informal ministerial meeting of select countries in Paris last week, the developed countries - the European Union, Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland - along with Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Costa Rica, Chile, Colombia, Singapore, and Hong Kong-China are preparing the ground for launching negotiations on e-commerce and MSMEs in Buenos Aires under the banner of "development-oriented" priorities, said trade envoys familiar with the development.
Following the deliberations in Paris, the proponents of e-commerce and MSMEs are assuming that the US will not walk away from the WTO despite the adverse pronouncements made by the Trump administration.
Trade ministers and envoys who took part in the Paris meeting maintain that Washington will announce its bilateral and multilateral trade priorities, including its review of the work at the WTO, in October, as per the 180-day review announced by the Trump administration.
The US will then make its positions clear on the outcomes it will either support or remain silent at the Buenos Aires meeting, said a source from a major developed country who asked not to be quoted.
Probably, the US will make it explicitly clear that the Doha Round is dead and that it will not accept its continuation in any form, in the 180-day policy review.
The US has already said that it will not negotiate minimal improvements, such as transparency and due process in the anti-dumping provisions, at the Doha rules negotiating body meeting.
Effectively, the US will allow fisheries subsidies negotiations in the Doha rules dossier but not improvements in anti-dumping provisions. In short, members must make commitments in fisheries subsidies without securing commensurate outcomes in other areas of the rules negotiations.
Until now, the proponents of MSMEs and electronic commerce were unable to muster courage to openly declare that the Doha Round is dead and that they will not participate in negotiations on the outstanding issues as per the Doha Work Program (DWP), the source said.
But, after the US makes its position clear on the termination of the Doha Round, the decks will be cleared for a formal burial in Buenos Aires by the silent supporters of the US position on the Doha issues.
Consequently, the remaining members - who strongly support the Doha Work Program - in Africa, Asia, and South America will not be able to resist the so-called new "development-oriented" issues on MSMEs and electronic commerce, these sources believe.
For the last many months, particularly since the Nairobi meeting, the supporters of the new issues have not mentioned the Doha Work Program even remotely in their proposals either on domestic support or fisheries subsidies.
However, they have now added the tag of "development-oriented" to their proposals on MSMEs, e-commerce, and other issues which are not part of the Doha Work Program.
The proponents will also make a concerted effort to sound their new proposals in Washington so as to get a tacit approval from the US administration, the source said.
Further, the proponents of the new issues will seemingly engage on mandated-issues such as the permanent solution for public stockholding programs for food security and special safeguard mechanism.
However, the proponents of MSMEs and e-commerce will doubly ensure that either there is no outcome on the PSH (public stockholding programs) or it is twisted and burdened with conditionalities that will make the solution infructuous, the source suggested.
An early test for the proposals on the new issues will come in the two meetings of capital-based senior officials from select countries - which will be organized by Argentina next month in Geneva.
Those two meetings will finalize the likely agenda for the Buenos Aires meeting before the summer break in August.
Subsequently, for almost two months - i. e September and the first half of October - efforts will be further mounted to finalize the elements of the proposed issues so that the select group of ministers could discuss in Marrakesh in October, the source maintained.
As part of the "development-oriented" priorities for the Buenos Aires meeting, Argentina along with Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay submitted a proposal on MSMEs as "a development outcome" for the eleventh ministerial meeting.
In their four-page proposal, the four countries said "MSMEs should become an important component of a development-oriented agenda at the WTO."
"By undertaking to consider the issue of MSMEs as part of future discussions within the framework of the WTO, Members have the opportunity to take a decisive step to accomplish the WTO's mission of contributing to economic development and raising standards of living," the four countries argued.
Under the banner of "friends of development", the four countries maintained that "while some challenges are shared by MSMEs from both developed and developing countries, particular attention and specific positive efforts should be aimed at levelling the playing field in favour of MSMEs from developing countries and least developed countries (LDCs), which face additional obstacles and gaps in productivity."
As part of the "international trade issues related to MSMEs," the four countries want members to discuss issues such as "information and transparency", "trade facilitation," "e-commerce," "MSMEs and trade financing," and other issues such as "concrete actions to help reduce trade costs of non-tariff barriers (NTBs), which place a disproportionate burden on MSMEs, and technical assistance and capacity building initiatives focused on trade needs of MSMEs."
Further, the four South American countries urged "all Members to present their proposals and suggestions on the topics they suggested."
"We call the membership to participate in the open-ended, informal dialogue on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises ("Friends of MSMEs") to explore concrete measures that Members could take to enable their participation in world trade," they argued in their proposal.
The four countries said members most work together "in order to adopt, at the Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires, a Ministerial Decision creating a Work Program [launching negotiations] that addresses the specific needs of MSMEs."
In short, the stage is set for the burial of the Doha Development Agenda negotiations while launching negotiations on new issues under the false banner of "development-oriented" priorities.
It remains to be seen whether the other developing countries who worked hard on the developmental issues in the Doha agenda for the past 16 years will let their core issues to be buried without any outcome once and for all in Buenos Aires or they would unitedly resist such an outcome, if necessary, by ensuring failure of MC11 at Buenos Aires as at Cancun, sources said. +

 Jun 16 2017 : The Times of India (Hyderabad)
`RCEP trade policy to hit farmers hard'

After farmers and workers in the country weathered the impact of WTO, a new threat now looms in the form of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which India will soon become a signatory .

Ahead of a meeting in Hyderabad in July of trade representatives of 17 countries, NGOs working on farmer and worker rights said the RCEP free trade agreement will negatively impact livelihoods of farmers and workers.

Representatives of the Telangana Rythu JAC, All India langana Rythu JAC, All India Kisan Sabha, AIKMS, Rythu Swarajya Vedika and Telangana Raithanga Samiti, trade unions such as AITUC, IFTU, PSI and Dalit Women's Union and people's organizations such as National Alliance of Dalit Organizations, Jana Vigyana Vedika, Dalit Bahujan Front and Doctors Without Borders were among those who spoke with the media here on Thursday on the proposed free trade agreement and its impacts on India.

They said they will chalk out a plan to protest and oppose India's entry when the 18th round of RCEP takes place in the city from July 17 to July 28. They also said they will hold a `People's Convention on RCEP and Free Trade Agreements' in the city during the last week of July .

They said RCEP requires countries to make import duties to zero as soon as the agreement comes into force. Farmers would not get good prices for their crops because of cheap imports. Dairy farmers will face dumping from Australia and New Zealand, which produces 500% surplus milk compared to their requirement. 

Farmers, workers gear up to resist RCEP terms
Our Bureau

Plan to flag malefic effect on economy
Hyderabad, June 15:  

As India gets ready to host the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) meeting among ASEAN members, a group of farmers, trade unions, intellectuals and non-governmental organisations have gathered here to oppose the talks.

They alleged that the provisions of the free trade agreements could severely hurt the Indian economy and could impact the incomes of farmers, the dairy industry, agri-based industries and some other sectors.

The meeting here on Wednesday was intended to educate stakeholders and discuss the likely adverse impacts of the RCEP on the Indian economy and on livelihoods.

The crucial round of the RCEP is scheduled to be held in Hyderabad in July, with representatives from 16 ASEAN members and representatives from the countries that were associated with it forming into working groups to deliberate on various aspects of the partnership.

Talking on the RCEP negotiations, Afsar Jafri of the Focus on the Global South, alleged that there was no transparency in the deliberations. “There is no process of ratification by Parliament. The States are not being taken into confidence though agriculture is a State subject in India,” he said.

The RCEP is one of the three largest ‘mega regional’ FTAs (free trade agreements) being negotiated in the world. Apart from India, the RCEP includes China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, along with the 10 ASEAN countries.

Shalini Bhutani, a Delhi-based researcher on FTAs, said the RCEP was more demanding than the WTO (World Trade Organisation). “The WTO offers some flexibility, but the RCEP offers none,” she said.

The RCEP requires countries to reduce make import duties to zero as soon as the agreement comes into force.

Representatives from AITUC, IFTU, Telangana Rythu Joint Action Committee, Rythu Swarajya Vedika, Telangana Raithanga Samiti, National Alliance of Dalit Organisations and Doctors Without Borders attended the meeting to discuss the RCEP fallout.

“The next meeting of the committee will happen on June 19 to chalk out the specific actions planned to protest the RCEP negotiations,” Kiran Kumar Vissa of Rythu Swarajya Vedika, said.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

The doer from the Thar : Chattar Singh

The doer from the Thar : Chattar Singh

There are many unsung heroes amidst us who go about their good work silently. Chattar Singh is one such hero who has revived traditional water management system of the parched Jaisalmer villages.

“Can you see the alternating bands of light and shadow in the sky?” Chattar Singh asks me. When I nod in affirmation, he continues, “This is Mogh. There are clouds where the sun is setting right now. If we get a favourable wind, these clouds will reach here and we may get rain by night. In desert, people live by such clues from nature.”  
We are at Ramgarh, around 60 km from Jaisalmer towards the Indo-Pak border. This region gets an average annual rainfall of just 100 mm and that too, not every year. A period of 10 years sees three years of drought. Despite that, there is always water in these villages and hardly anyone leaves here in search for better living. A big credit for this goes to 54-year-old Chattar Singh. 

Bringing villagers together
Singh works with Sambhaav, an organisation that focuses on strengthening local ecological systems. In the last 10 years, he has mobilised people to revive traditional water-harvesting practices which sustain livestock and farming despite the tough terrain and low rainfall. A two-tier system works here. A normal rainfall year fills up the ponds but during drought, the ponds dry up and the beris take over. A beri is a small well that accesses rainwater trapped by impervious layer of gypsum that runs 15-20 feet below the ground. The reserve is different from the groundwater aquifer which lies deeper and is usually saline. The layer of gypsum does not let the sweet water mix with saline groundwater.
This geological feature also helps grow grains in khadin, a farm with a bow-shaped embankment. In a good monsoon year, the embankment collects rainwater coming from the vast catchment area. The gypsum layer does not let this water percolate deep and keeps the soil sufficiently moistened for rabi crops to flourish. Several community khadins have been serving the region for centuries providing food in an equitable fashion to all the shareholders. 

These structures, however, collapsed, thanks to the social welfare schemes that made people rely on government support. But that did not last long. When the government plans became unsustainable, the villagers were forced to migrate as they had also lost the heritage of self-reliance. It was then that people like Chattar Singh motivated them to work together and revive the beris, khadins and ponds of their forefathers and build new ones as well. 

'It's people's work, not mine'
Though Singh has worked with several social organisations, it was only after joining Sambhaav a decade ago that he says he realised what working with people meant. “Earlier I was just following the usual NGO style of project-based work and fundraising. Though the work was on water harvesting, there was little involvement with the locals. With Sambhaav, I learned how we have to make it their work, not ours,” he says. 

This concept became apparent to me in 2014 when I went with Chattar Singh to Meerwala, a desert village that wanted to revive its dysfunctional well. After the physical examination and discussion about geology and water quality with the villagers, Chattar Singh turned to me and said, “This well goes 252 feet down. Digging deep is the most dangerous job out here because the sand can cave in. But they must have water.” By the time we left, the arrangement had already been made to get a team of professional well-diggers from the neighbouring Barmer district. Sambhaav only facilitated the process while the villagers bore all the expenses and the well was yielding water again. The impact of such works has been long lasting as villagers feel greater ownership of their water resources.
Chattar Singh has also adopted a 50 hectare khadin jointly owned by eight villages which was lying neglected and infested by the weed (Prospois juliflora). “This is to further the idea of community sharing and be grateful to the benefits of nature,” he had told me three years ago. It has been a journey of mixed results so far as the rain failed in the first year and the second year was bountiful. This year again, the region is facing drought. “People have taken notice of this work and after the next rainfall, they will start participating,” he says confidently.
Many a times, Chattar Singh has also gone against the mighty to support a just cause. His complaint against the land mafia in Ramgarh brought some unsavoury consequences but he continued to fight and also supported RTI activist Babu Ram Chauhan in his anti-encroachment campaign.

A master of storytelling
There is another layer to Singh’s personality that is equally endearing--his ability to narrate stories and use them to convey messages to a larger audience. Leaning on his vast knowledge bank, Chattar Singh carries forward the oral storytelling tradition of Rajasthan. Whether it’s the somber tale of overnight migration by Paliwal Brahmins or the celebration of collective work to build a pond, the fluctuating timber of his voice always tugs at the heart strings.
From easy to grasp botanical lessons on desert shrubs to the night sky map travelers use to navigate in the desert, Singh knows it all. Another trademark of his storytelling is the humour. Sample this: “I had never heard of a mosquito till the time I went to Jaipur to appear in a school examination. When the village elders asked me how I planned to defend against the attack of mosquitoes, I said, “Let them come I will have my stick ready.” The desert never had mosquitoes, but now we get malaria epidemic every other year thanks to the Indira Gandhi canal.” It's not surprising that a good number of people from both rural and urban areas call him their guru on desert ecology and community relations.
Meanwhile, Singh has also started using newer mediums of communication like Facebook which have brought his wisdom and wit closer to his urban students. This write up by him last year on drought in Latur as compared to abundance in Ramgarh was appreciated widely for conveying a vital message in a simple manner. Despite all the great work, the unassuming demeanour of this man from Ramgarh makes you trust the goodness remaining in this world.



Water In Ancient India : IIT-M

Water In Ancient India 

Prof. Pradeep’s Research


From time immemorial water has been the driving force of every civilization. Throughout the history of mankind, there has been one major motivating factor behind every dwelling place. Nations rise with water and empires can fall in its absence. The people of ancient times attached great importance to an adequate supply of water for agricultural operations, cooking, drinking, washing etc. Depending on the chemical and physical properties and on a few other factors, our ancestors had classified water into several groups. They had also made a thorough study of varying effects of conserving water under different conditions.

Some Sanskrit texts give very interesting information on different types of water recognized by our people, chemical and physical properties thereof, their effects on the functions of the body and mind of human beings, impurities in water, necessity of purifying water and different methods of purification, types of water most beneficial during different seasons etc. In the present context, it will be very interesting and also helpful to know how people of ancient India maintained the quality of water, and what were the methods of water purification and storage adapted by them. A study of these texts reveals that our ancients were even efficient in carrying out water analysis and treatment of water, scientifically in a simple manner. They were also aware of maintaining an ecological balance for the welfare of mankind.

Water is one of the substances without which life cannot exist. The Mohenjodaro and Harappan ruins dating back 5000 years have thrown light on the fact that even in that early period people gave importance to proper water supply for domestic applications, irrigation and public baths. In ancient India, water was used in all religious rituals and ceremonies because it was believed that the pure, divine and sacred waters conveyed their offerings to gods. Water, though a purifying agent itself, was held to be very sacred and people were often exhorted not to harm waters, which are full of saps and good food. It is needless to point out that water played an essential role in the life of man, in his physical and mental development. It is an essential element bringing health, prosperity and happiness.  

Water and ancient Vedic scriptures:

A study of ancient and medieval literary Sanskrit works and other texts reveals that people in ancient India must have had a plentiful supply of water for drinking, cooking, washing and other purposes. They were particular that water for municipal purposes, drinking and general domestic and industrial consumption should be hygienically safe, reasonably soft, practically colorless and free from objectionable odor and taste. Generally, water must be free from various types of impurities. For medical treatment, water having specific qualities was prescribed for different types of diseases. Giving considerable thought to all these aspects, people of ancient and medieval India put great effort to test and analyze different types of water collected in different places and in different seasons. The Vedic seers, in several hymns, invoked water, the purifying agent to be gracious with mankind, to purify men like mothers and to remove all physical defilements. They believed that waters consumed by men gave strength and that it was an auspicious drink within the stomach. Hence they prayed, "May the waters be pleasant to our taste, be free from diseases, sin and sickness, be the remover of fear of death, be full of divine qualities and be the strength of eternal laws". The hymns invoking waters and the prayers directed to Lord Varuna, the presiding deity of waters, reveal that even as early as the Vedic period, people took precautions to use only the water that was free from all sorts of impurities and that great care was taken for an adequate supply of unpolluted water. 


In the modern period, water is generally classified as hard, soft, medium hard and saline in accordance with its physical and chemical properties. Caraka and other sages of ancient India have said that the entire water is ultimately of one type viz., the one which falls from the sky as directed by Indra. 

Jalamekam vidham sarvam patatyaindram nabhastalat I 
Tatpatatpatitam caiva desakalavapeksate II
                      -                   -Caraka Samhita Suthrasthanam, 196.

It was believed that Lord Indra directs the fall of water from heaven according to the activities performed by the mortals. This water while falling and after having fallen from the sky acquires properties depending upon time and space. Modern scientists say that ultrapure water, without any dissolved matter, will be colorless, odorless and would have a pH value of 7.0. Our ancient seers could distinguish this type of water known as 'antariksham'. This becomes clear from the statement of Susruta:- 

Paniyam antarisksam anirdesyarasamamrtam
Jivanam tarpanam dharanam asvasajananam
Sramaklama pipasa madamurcchatandranidradaha 

                  - Susruta Samhita, Sutrasthanam, 45.3. 

This means that the water that is produced in the clouds when it falls down has no taste, no odor. It is absolutely pure and beneficial like nectar. It gives and sustains life, quenches thirst, cures wounds caused by weapons, etc. and revives the consciousness of those who faint due to fatigue, gives clear knowledge, removes drowsiness and burning sensation of the body, etc. 

Even though it is said in our ancient texts like Caraka Samhita that entire water is ultimately of one type, water was broadly classified into two categories, divya and bhauma. Divya was that which fell from the sky, which in turn was of four varieties, viz., dhara, kara, tusara and haima. 'Dhara' is the rainwater that drops from the sky continuously, 'kara' is hailstones, tusara is snow water and haima is water from the dew. Rainwater was further classified as 'gangam' and 'samudram' based on seasonal variations that were responsible for bringing about the various merits and demerits of water. 'Gangam' water was that which was not contaminated with dust, poison etc., where as 'samudra' water was considered to be contaminated. Generally, 'gangam' water rained in the month of Asvayuja. 

Among the 'bhauma' (surface or ground waters), the following nine types are enumerated in the ancient texts:

1. Nadeya, water of rivers emerging from the mountains and flowing into the fertile regions. This type of water will have the tinge of sapphire.
2. Nisyanda, the slightly warm and clear water obtained by making a pit in the sand with the hands.
3. Sarasa, the water having lotuses and lilies and collected from streams flowing from rivers and mountains.
4. Bhauma, the clear and tasty water with the hue of blue lilies collected from ponds and wells.
5. Kaunda, the water found in the midst of long rocky reservoirs. This water will be sweet, clear, resembling asatipuspa and having therapeutic values.
6. Tadaka, the water which is collected in large lakes by constructing stone culverts and which is mixed with fresh water every year.
7. Nairjhara, the soft, clear, tasty water of waterfalls that flow down by piercing the mountain rocks.
8. Varksa, the water obtained from trees, such as, coconut water. Such water is very tasty, nourishing and refreshing.
9. Audbhida, the water that gushes out with force from a spring.


It is said that the waters falling on earth with different colors like red, grey, reddish white, blue, etc. have sweet, sour, saline, pungent and bitter taste. But the general opinion is that, it is the mutual combination of the five elements in different proportions that are responsible for the different tastes of water. In this context, where the quality of prithvi is more, water has a sour taste and is salty. Where the element of water is more, it has a sweet taste. Where the quality of ether is predominant, water has no taste i.e., taste does not get manifested. This type of water is recommended as the purest form of water. 

The classification of water as 'gangam' and 'samudram' is also based on the seasonal variations, which are responsible for bringing about the various merits and demerits of water. The 'gangam' type is said to be pure while the 'samudra' type is considered contaminated. The rainwater falling in the month of asvina (September - October) is said to be free from dust, poison etc. Even the dust that comes into contact with water does not pollute it by virtue of its neutralizing factors in the season. Hence, even 'samudra' water collected during the month of asvina may be used. Susruta has mentioned that samudra type of water is not to be taken, except when available during the month of IIvina. 

Ancient Indians had tested the properties of water falling from the sky and also of water fallen on the ground. The properties of water vary according to the particular spot in the sky with the predominance of one or the other 'mahabhutas' or elements from where it has fallen. The seasons and also the particular place on the earth where it has fallen. While in the sky, water not only comes into contact with the moon, the air and the sun but also with the earth in the sky in the form of dust particles and poisons of insects etc. carried through the air. Hence the contact of water with all these bodies ordained by seasons and the seasons themselves play a very important role in bringing about specific qualities in water after it has fallen down on the earth. In this manner water gets in touch with various properties of the earth according to seasonal variations. 

A test is prescribed to find out these two types of water, gangam and samudram. A lump of cooked rice should be placed in a pure and untarnished silver vessel and rainwater should be collected in that vessel. If the rice does not change color and remains as it is, the water is 'gangam' and is fit to be used for different purposes: if the rice changes color, the water should be taken as 'samudram' which is not fit for use except in the month of asvina or advent of autumn. Perhaps this test is meant to find out the existence of sulfides in water that is not good for consumption. 


1. Rainwater: 

By nature, rainwater has six qualities, viz. coldness, purity, benevolence, pleasantness, clearness and softness. 

Sitam sucisivam mrstam vimalam laghu sadgunam
Prakrtya divyam udakam 

                      -Caraka, sutra 198 

The qualities of rainwater after falling on the ground are determined by the place where the rain falls. After falling on the earth, since the rainwater gets in touch with the inherent properties of the earth like cold, heat, unctuous (i.e. oily substances), ununctuous (dry substances), etc., its properties change according to the receptacle and season also. If the rainwater falls on the earth that has a white color, it becomes astringent in taste. On yellowish white earth, it is bitter; on brown earth it is alkaline. On saline soil it is also saline and on mountain valley it is pungent in taste and on black soil it becomes sweet in taste. These six properties are acquired by water after it falls on the ground. Rainwater falling from the sky and collected in a suitable receptacle is known as 'aindra'. This is an excellent type of water. Tastes are not manifested in rainwater, hailstones or snow water. Water that is slightly astringent and sweet in taste, exceedingly thin, non-slimy, soft and non-greasy is the best to be taken. 

Rainwater available in the rainy season is heavy and greasy. During the autumn it is thin, light and non-greasy. Persons with delicate health and those accustomed to taking predominantly unctuous food are advised to use this water in the preparation of masticable (or chewable) and eatable food, linctus and drinks. Water available in the season of hemantha (winter) is unctuous, aphrodisiac, strength promoting and heavy. That of sisira season (latter part of winter) is slightly lighter and alleviates kapha and vata doshas. Water in summer is not greasy. Thus great physicians and seers of ancient India were aware of the different properties of rainwater in different seasons. 

Water collected from untimely rains is undoubtedly unwholesome and it is advised that such water should be avoided. Since water of the autumn season is the best, this water should be collected in suitable large receptacles and used by people of delicate health. 

2. Ground water:

If gangam water is not available, water that has fallen on the ground i.e., surface water can be used. Among the ground water sources, water fallen on a spot having more of 'akasaguna' is considered to be the best. There are different types of surface waters, such as kaupam, nadeyam, sarasam, tadagam, prasravanam, audbhidam, caundyam, etc., out of which audbhidam should be used in the rainy season. 

In the autumn season, all types of ground waters can be used. During this season all waters are clear, free from any dosha or pollution. In 'hemantha(winter)' season tadaka water is the best. In the rainy season, caundyam or old water (not fresh) and water not touched by rainwater may be used. 

tatra vasasu antariksam aubhidam va sevata I
mahagunavatvat saradisarvam prasannatvat I
hemante sarasam tadakam ca ! vasante kupam
prasravanamva ! grismesyevam! Pravrsi caundyam!

                      -Anavam anabhivstam sarvam ceti II

Our ancients had given considerable thought to find out the quality of water of different seasons and different surfaces because the purity and the quantity of available water were very important in locating new residential colonies, hospitals, gardens, agricultural fields, etc.

3. River waters:

Among the surface waters, river waters are comparatively soft i.e., low in mineral content and are most likely to contain easily soluble salts and sediments. Therefore, different types of river waters with their therapeutic effects etc. are also discussed in several Sanskrit texts. 

It is said that the waters of rivers originating from the Himalayas that are dispersed, disturbed and hit by stones are sacred and wholesome. The rivers originating from the Malaya mountains and those carrying stones and sand possess clear water like nectar. 

Nadyah pasanavicchinna viksubdhabhihatodakah
Himavatprabhavah pathyah punyah devarisevitah

                      - Caraka, sutra 209-212 

The general opinion is that rivers flowing towards the west possess wholesome and clear water and those flowing towards the eastern sea generally possess carry soft and heavy water. Vindhya and Sahya ranges are responsible for diseases of head, heart, and skin (including leprosy and filaria). 

Rivers carrying rainwater which are vitiated by mud, insects, snakes, mice, and dirt and so, are responsible for all kinds of diseases. Other surface waters like pond, well, and lake share the merits and demerits of the places in which they are situated, viz., marshy land, hilly areas, deserts, etc. 

anupasailadhanvanam gunadosaih

                      - Caraka, sutra 214 


Apart from the suspended impurities like moss, dry leaves, rotten grass, etc. six types of pollution are mentioned viz., sparsa, rupa, rusa, gandha, virya and vipaka. These six types of pollution cause various adverse effects and many methods are also prescribed to get rid of these pollutants and make the water fit to be used for different purposes. 

Only for the past few years scientists of modern times are turning their attention to arouse awareness among the people about the polluted atmosphere, especially the hazards caused by water pollution. But our ancients had already thought of it and had cautioned people against using harmful water for various purposes. They were aware that river-waters were comparatively soft and most likely contained soluble salts and sediments. Ground waters from deep wells are usually free from suspended matter and are much harder than the surface waters in the same vicinity. They knew that in regions of heavy rainfall, surface waters contain less mineral matter because of dilution. 


Susruta explained the six types of pollutions, viz., sparsa dosha, rupa dosha, rasa dosha, gandha dosha, virya dosha and vipaka dosha and has given the ill-effects caused by consuming or using water with these doshas. He prescribed a few substances like clearing nuts, gomedaka, lotus-bulbs, moss, pearls, thick cloth, etc. to remove impurities, including those suspended from water. 

tatra saptakalusasya prasadhanani santi I
tadyatha katakagomedakabhisagranthi-
saivalamula vastrani muktamanisceti II

                      - Susruta, sutra 45.13

Boiling, making sunlight fall on the water, adding fragrance by dropping flowers in the water, dropping red hot iron balls, sand, lump of mud (alum) in the water and allowing it to clear are some of the methods prescribed for purification of water. Water heated by sun's rays is considered to be very good like gangam water. When heated by the sun, bacteria, etc. are destroyed and when cooled in the night, water becomes soft and light. Therefore, it is advised that water should be fetched from rivers and lakes at dawn. Hamsodaka waters heated by the rays of the sun and cooled in the moonlight are said to be pure. Water was also treated with purifying ingredients and perfumed with fragrant flowers. Such water was called samskrta jalam. 

hamsodakam tatha canyam kriyasamskara sambhavam I
diva suryamsusamtaptam ratraucandramsusitalam II

                      - Sivatattvaratnakara, VI 20.66 


If water gets polluted and becomes pungent, bitter, tasteless, saline or malodorous, it is advised that arjuna, musta, usira, nagakesara, kosataka, amalaka together with ketakaphala should be added to it. This will make the foul water transparent, tasteful and fragrant and in addition will confer on it many other good qualities. 

A lump of earth (alum), well mixed with phana, mustaka, ela, usira, and candana should be baked well in the fire of khadira and then dropped in water. This type of treatment is called pindavasa and alleviates all ailments. Similarly, treatment of waters with flowers and powders are also described. They are called puspavasa and curnadhivasa. Such treatment will, to some extent, remove sparsa, rupa, rasa and gandha doshas.

Another recipe for clearing water is as follows: mixture of anjana, musta, usira, rajakosataka, emblic myrobalan and kataka nuts were used in order to impart clarity, good taste and other qualities to water.

A few methods of preserving, storing and cooling water are also given in the texts. Water should be brought in containers made of coconut shells or in earthen or copper pots. Water from the containers should be poured out through tubes. The containers may be wrapped in wet clothes or kept on clean sand to maintain the coolness of water. Pure water should first be sweetened with a piece of sugar candy by dropping it in water. Then by placing it in the cooling machines of pugapatta (bark of areca) the water should be cooled. After filtration, the water should be poured in different vessels and perfumed with the essence of fruits and flowers. Drinking water can be rendered tasty in this way. 


Through many mystic chants, sacrifices and rituals the Rain god was invoked in ancient India. Since Indians believed that the prosperity of a country depended on the amount of rainfall that it received, rainfall was often predicted and also ascertained for different regions. The Krsiparasara, an ancient work, has described at length the planetary influence on rainfall. After categorizing clouds as avarta, samvarta, puskara and drone, this work supplies interesting information on the method of forecasting rainfall in a particular year by observing natural phenomena like the first flash of lightening, course of wind, etc. Immediate rainfall also could be predicted from the sudden croaking of frogs, rising of ants with eggs from their holes, dance of peacocks and so on. Our ancients were able to distinguish these clouds as the same text says that of the four types of clouds one becomes predominant in a particular year, avarta rains in particular areas while samvarta rains everywhere. When the cloud puskara is predominant, rainfall becomes scanty and during the dominance of drone rainfall becomes plenty. In 400 BC Kautilya had identified that there are three clouds that rain continuously for seven days, eighty clouds that pour minute drips and sixty clouds that appear with sunshine. Of course, the texts like Krsiparasara contain many more details regarding the measurement of rains, garbhalaksana of the clouds, garbha dharana and pravarsana of the clouds. 

From these varied sources we can gather that ancient Indians were probably the greatest water harvesters in the world. They evolved a vast variety of water harvesting systems for agriculture, drinking and other household purposes. These practices bear testimony to a highly specialized surface hydrology and water management in ancient India. The art of ascertaining presence of water underground, known by the name dakargalasastra, had reached a fairly developed stage. 


From the above discussion we come to know that our ancients knew many methods for removal of color, odor, suspended matter and bacteria from surface water and in some cases removal of hardness and also the protection of water against recontamination. Coagulation, filtration, and disinfection were the standard treatment methods adopted apart from the removal of color and odor. Coagulation was accomplished by adding some metals and red hot iron balls. Filtration was done through cloth or fine sand beds to eliminate turbidity and bacteria. Alum was used for sedimentation. Even though addition of chlorine is not mentioned in ancient texts, we can presume that disinfection was effected by exposing water to sunlight and cooling it in moonlight because these provide ozone and ultraviolet light. 

The chemical and physical properties of different types of water were thoroughly studied by the people of ancient India and this enabled them to select the correct type of water for different purposes. In ancient India, though ground water was used in plenty and wells were sunk in many places, steps were also taken to check soil erosion by afforestation. Irrigation tanks were well maintained and periodically desilted. Some texts on agriculture speak of percolation tanks and bunds in drought-prone areas where flash floods were transient. No doubt hydrology was highly advanced in ancient India. 

The production of water for different purposes involves procurement, pre-treatment or purification and distribution. In ancient times, large number of lakes, tanks and ponds were dug and river water also was made use in plenty. In smaller towns, where ground water was sufficient, water was obtained from wells. Artisan or deep wells were also used for irrigation in the agricultural fields. Water was procured and preserved in large reservoirs. Impurities and undesirable substances such as sediment, bacteria and dissolved matter did have a bearing on the choice of water supply source, but all impurities were removed by proper treatment. 

(This article is credited to (Late) Dr. Radha Krishnamurthy, Bangalore, India and was published in the Indian Journal of History of Science, 31(4), 1996. The permission for uploading this content was granted by Dr. Radha Krishnamurthy's nephew Mr. B. Srinivas, Bangalore on 2nd August, 2014.)      


Loan waivers are on you, FM tells States - Today's Paper - The Hindu

Loan waivers are on you, FM tells States - Today's Paper - The Hindu

When it comes to India's largest (or second largest) bad debtor, Adani, Jaitely rushes to defend another $1billion being questionably and controversially lent by SBI, a bank that now works as the extension of the PMO and Finance Ministry, and in fact at their beck and call.

"Mr. Jaitley said the Congress was raking this up as it has a paucity of issues. “Since when has the issue of a creditor’s willingness to give loans to a borrower become an issue of public debate,” he wrote."

And when it comes to waiving farmers loans, Jaitely does not hesitate to say it's not his problem at all!


Friday, 9 June 2017

News Update 9 JUNE 2017

 News Update 9 JUNE 2017 








Pollution IN Himachal

 Pollution IN Himachal

1.  On the occasion of World Environment Day, Kinnaur district in Himachal Pradesh echoed with slogans like “Van Adhikar Kanoon Lagoo Karo (implement the Forest Rights Act, 2006) and Hamare Gaon Mein Hamara Raj (self-rule in our village). 

2. “Himachal has dirty air too” Online Petition launched on World Environment Day. Appeal to Himachal Pollution Control Board to safeguard Himachal’s air, monitor all air pollution parameters. 

3. In the name of development hydro power projects are spelling doom in tribal districts of Himachal Pradesh. While local residents and green activists oppose these projects, the government plans to launch slew of projects across state to harness the vast untapped hydro power potential.

4. As ministers, leaders and corporates today went into overdrive on World Environment Day to plant saplings, environmentalists say these efforts are unlikely to generate the results required to fulfil India’s commitment to increasing forest cover by 2030.

5. The demolition drive begun by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) at Dharampur to take possession of land for four-laning of the Parwanoo-Solan highway has left a large number of traders disappointed as they have failed to get any compensation.

6. Climate change is straining socio-economic life in Kinnaur affecting apple production, causing landslides and pushing metal pent roofs

7. किन्नौर में बादल फटने से मची भारी तबाही, कई गाड़ियां और मवेशी लापता

8.  उत्तराखण्ड के धार्मिक पर्यटन व अंधाधुंध मशीनी विकास पर एक नजर 

9. Dams don't just have local environmental impacts. It's clear they play a key role in the global carbon cycle and therefore the Earth's climate. Water reservoirs created by damming rivers could have significant impacts on the world's carbon cycle and climate system that aren't being accounted for, a new study concludes.

10. Insightful reporting by Rajeshwari Sinha of Down to Earth on how BBN region in Himachal remains prone to antibiotic pollution due to pharma units.The waste contains active ingredients used in antibiotics and may be contributing to the spread of antimicrobial resistance. It is time to treat pharma waste more rigorously.

(1) Clean Kali: All eyes now on govt , (2) गंगोत्री के हरे पहरेदारों की पुकार सुनो, (3) Deadline for 300 thermal plants on adoption of air pollution norms extended

Clean Kali: All eyes now on govt 

The water of East Kali is heavily polluted. It would hopefully change with the NGT taking notice of it.  

Rampura, situated in Bulandshahr district in western Uttar Pradesh, is one of the 1,200 villages on the banks of the 300-km long East Kali, a tributary of the Ganges. The river is named after goddess Kali who, according to the Hindu mythology, is fierce and fights evil by ingesting it.

Till the 1980s, the river was a symbol of purity. Things have changed now with the river turning into a nullah brimming with industrial effluents. “We used to drink its waters when young. Today, it's so toxic that forget drinking, I dread touching it,” says Devendra Kumar Sharma, a resident of Panwadi, a village in Meerut district. The river’s toxic water now symbolises death and not life.
Foul flows in streams
As per a study by Neer Foundation, a Meerut-based non-profit working on environmental issues, as the river is polluted, the groundwater of the area which gets replenished by the river too has turned into a receptacle for toxic waste. Unsuspecting people, however, continued to draw water through the handpumps till recent studies rang an alarm bell.
The study conducted in 2015-16 reveals that in Rampura, the groundwater recorded a total dissolved solids of 1760 mg/litre, way above the permissible standard of a maximum of 500 mg/litre for drinking purposes. Soil stratum was harmed as iron and lead contamination spread from river water to aquifers (underground reservoirs that hold groundwater) that are recharged by it.

गंगोत्री के हरे पहरेदारों की पुकार सुनो

एक ओर ‘नमामि गंगे’  के तहत् 30 हजार  हेक्टेयर भूमि पर वनों के रोपण का लक्ष्य है तो दूसरी ओर गंगोत्री से हर्षिल के बीच हजारों हरे देवदार के पेडों की हजामत किए जाने का प्रस्ताव है। यहां जिन देवदार के हरे पेडों को कटान के लिये चिन्हित किया गया हैं, उनकी उम्र न तो छंटाई योग्य हैं, और न ही उनके कोई हिस्से सूखे हैं। कहा जा रहा है कि ऐसा ‘आॅल वेदर रोड’ यानी हर मौसम में ठीक रहने वाली 15 मीटर चौड़ी सड़क के नाम पर किया जायेगा। क्या ऊपरी हिमालय में सड़क की इतनी चौड़ाई उचित है ?
 क्या ग्लेशियरों के मलवों के ऊपर खडे पहाड़ों को थामने वाली इस वन संपदा का विनाश शुभ है ? कतई नहीं।
गौर कीजिए कि इस क्षेत्र में फैले 2300 वर्ग किमी क्षेत्र में गंगोत्री नेशनल पार्क भी है। गंगा उद्गम का यह क्षेत्र राई, कैल, मुरेंडा, देवदार, खर्सू, मौरू नैर, थुनेर, दालचीनी, बाॅज, बुराॅस आदि शंकुधारी एवं  चौड़ी पत्ती वाली दुर्लभ वन प्रजातियों का घर है। गंगोत्री के दर्शन से पहले देवदार के जंगल के बीच गुजरने का आनंद ही स्वर्ग की अनुभूति है। इनके बीच में उगने वाली जडी-बूटियों और यहां से बहकर आ रही जल धाराये हीं गंगाजल की गुणवतापूर्ण निर्मलता बनाये रखने में महत्वपूर्ण योगदान देती हैं।
यह ध्यान देने की जरूरत हैं कि यहां की वन प्रजातियां एक तरह से रेनफेड फाॅरेस्ट (वर्षा वाली प्रजाति) के नाम से भी जानी जाती हैं। इन्ही के कारण जहां हर समय बारिश की संभावना बनी रहती हैं। गंगोंत्री के आसपास गोमुख समेत सैकडों ग्लेशियर हैं। जब ग्लेशियर टूटते हैं, तब ये प्रजातियां ही उसके दुष्परिणाम से हमें बचाती हैं। देवदार प्रधान हमारे जंगल हिमालय और गंगा..दोनो के हरे पहरेदार हैं। ग्लेशियरों का तापमान नियंत्रित करने में रखने में भी इनकी हमारे इन हरे पहरेदारों की भूमिका बहुत अधिक है।

Deadline for 300 thermal plants on adoption of air pollution norms extended 

Central Electricity Authority lays down a roadmap for the sector that breaches regulations

 Disregarding new environment regulations, the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) has given more than 300 thermal power plants two to five-year reprieve from adhering to the strict air pollution standards that come into force this year. The CEA has set in place a roadmap for the plants to install essential pollution abatement technology earliest by 2020 instead of doing so by end 2017. The new environmental regulations requiring the installation of this technology kick in from December 2017 for all existing thermal power plants. For the stressed thermal power sector this implies a ...




Sold down the river

Sold down the river : THE HINDU

Between the glaciers and the sea lie the vast plains. And that’s where the Ganga, shackled by faith, rituals and tokens of modern development, looks out of character

They have put the magical mountain river inside a tunnel. It is still called Bhagirathi in the hills of Tehri Garhwal, Uttarakhand, where it mixes in serene synthesis with Bhilangana, another deceptively deep and diabolical river with currents that can suck you into whirlpools faster than you can blink. The old Tehri town is under water, it has disappeared. There is no trace left of the River View Hotel run by anti-dam activist Jagdamba Raturi across the dilapidated bridge where they first made the cofferdam, even as they submerged vast tracts of pristine forests, meadows, valleys, fertile land and mountains to build the Tehri Dam. 

That the multi-crore dam supplies only an iota of what was promised in terms of electricity, or that its water is allegedly being used to flush toilets in Delhi, proves how big is still beautiful for the giant-killers of development and mass displacement. Indeed, if you ask a local, or an official, what if there is an earthquake above 8.5 Richter scale in this seismic fault line across the big dam, and what if Haridwar and Rishikesh disappear in case of an earthquake, they simply wink and look the other way. One of them said, “That will be apocalypse now. There will be nothing to say once it happens.” 

Hindu ‘saints’ claim that Bhagirathi — still not called Ganga in the Himalayan hills — should flow unshackled. That its water never rots; there is an inner eternity and medicinal purity in its water. Exactly the opposite has happened in Tehri, where it has become an artificial reservoir, damned into cages. 

After Tehri, the Bhagirathi moves into the hills and foothills like a tamed river, cannibalised by machine and man. And as the plains move in, like the hydra-headed serpent with bestialities and brutalities, beyond Rishikesh, where it still flows and is blue, the river disappears inside the holy city of Haridwar, and turns into a dirty, shoreless nullah, loaded with faeces, remains of the dead, puja samagri, non-biodegradable garbage, plastic, chemicals and effluents. Hence after, it is tamed, domesticated, turned into a goddess, a mother, a deity, a divinity, into whom the whole world can dump filth and ugliness. From this point on, there is no redemption for the river: she is now Mother Ganga, Ganga Maiya, Namoh Ganga, Namami Ganga. 

Not so beyond Uttarkashi, Harsil, Darhali and Gaumukh, very close to the Tibet border, where the sound of waterfalls drowns your voice. And where the young, fragile, vulnerable Himalayas move into the sky, even as the waters of the river enter deep inside gorges, gurgling through zigzag mountain rocks — fierce, free and fast at places, and serene at others. The water shimmers with the sunshine, changing contours and directions and turning wayward, following no map, no calendar or compass, as untamed, primordial as ever, celebrating the most elemental freedoms of a sublime river in full, unbridled flow. 

The river becomes a thousand streams and waterfalls, becomes thesis, antithesis, catharsis, synthesis, refuses to follow a defined trajectory, completely at home in its turf. At Harsil there was a Mandakini Dhaba near a bustling waterfall that would swell during winter nights and only men drunk on country liquor would dare to cross a thin tree branch that posed as a ‘wooden bridge’. The dhaba has disappeared and the landscape has changed. The dhaba was named after actress Mandakini of Raj Kapoor’s Bollywood hit Ram Teri Ganga Maili; she, it is said, shot for a wet dance under the waterfall here, dazzling and ‘pure’ in a white sari — a recurrent obsession of the filmmaker. 

From Yamunotri on one side of the Himalayas, the Yamuna begins its epic journey, and is savagely turned into a sewage drain in the plains. From Gaumukh and Gangotri, on the other side, the Bhagirathi makes its beginning, finding its finale in the Bay of Bengal: Gangasagar. Does the Hindu soul really find redemption in the swirling bowels of the ocean? 

Beyond Darhali, Gangotri is the temple town beyond which there is a long, dangerous trek to 10,000 ft, where the origin of the river becomes a moment of magical realism. You have to cross Bhojwasa and Chirbasa, two points of rest in this trek of about 18 km. The glacier is rapidly receding due to global warming. Experts have made a dark prophecy: that one day the river will become a monsoon river — it will only flow when it rains, since the glacier would have disappeared. 

Bhojwasa is named after the tree on the leaves of which ancient manuscripts were written. The trees disappear, and so does the oxygen in the air, as you trek beyond Chirbasa, and a vast, empty, silent expanse arrives. There is nothing but the magical cruelty and beauty of the Himalayas, almost bereft of trees. Only the river flows in its many avatars. 

As you trek up, you can see the river moving through thousands of cracks, becoming twin sisters — one dark and muddy, the other clean and sunny — chatting with each other, rippling through the meadows and valley, losing its body and flesh into the waterfalls which appear and disappear as magically. All rivers, from Jahnavi to Bhairavi, and, later, Alaknanda and Mandakini, they are all Bhagirathi here and there; they all must become one in their unruly journeys. 

She is in her elements here at her birthplace. She is free. Indeed, if you look at the architecture of the Himalayas between the glacier and the temple town, you can see that she is wild and young, flowing through the million locks of Shiva. This is Shiva-Bhagirathi territory. And it is a rollicking love affair. 

At Gaumukh, the blue and muddy glacier is constantly cracking under your feet, even as chunks of ice float through the huge mouth inside the glacier. If you are courageous enough to walk through this trembling and melting mass of ice, you might reach Tapovan. There used to be a story that a woman tapasvi lived alone at Tapovan; and even if 20 people landed up, she would have food for them in her handi. Later, locals say, she had a kidney failure, and had to be transported through this deadly downhill trek to the plains for emergency care. Life is extremely tough here for wanderers and seekers in exile. 

Of the many mythical narratives about the river, one is magical. That a prince called Bhagirath sat on a long tapasya to bring Ganga to Earth in order that his ancestors find salvation at Gangasagar. He realised that she will come with such force that will destroy the planet. So he started tapasya, pleading with Shiva to take her in his locks and control the impact of her arrival. 

Shiva agrees, falls in love with this wild beauty, celebrates open adultery, and refuses to release her. Hence, Bhagiratha goes on another fast to get her released, which Shiva accedes to, and she arrives on the day of Gangadashami at Gaumukh and Gangotri. The myth goes that the moment she descends, she is so furious and fast that the water rises at Varanasi. 

Hence, as she follows Bhagiratha’s rath, she ditches him yet again and disappears in her playfulness. And dismantles the samadhi of Jahnu, a saint. Angry, he gulps her down and imprisons her in his navel — another subtle, erotic revelation of sorts. So Bhagiratha goes on a final tapasya to free her. And, thereby, her epical journey begins to the ocean, even as she is caged, domesticated, ravaged and brahminised in the plains.
Amit Sengupta is a Delhi-based writer and academic