Blessed are those whom Almighty gives a chance to see their dreams coming true in their life time itself. My pleasure today knows no bounds. When the idea of converting the Paondhoi river from an eye sore to the Pride of Saharanpur had struck my mind way back in 1997, I was hoping that may be a decade would be needed for this vision to become a reality. An action plan was prepared and work was started. After working tirelessly for a few months with a number of friends (whom the idea appealed a lot), during which we contacted nearly 10000 people to get their signed pledge to keep the river clean, we gave up for all practical purposes. We found out that motivating people was not enough, we needed authority to command various govt. departments also – Nagar Nigam, Yamuna Action Plan, Saharanpur Vikas Pradhikaran, PWD etc., which none in our group possessed. Seeking the assistance of political activists proved to be counter-productive. While one group started supporting us, several rival group decided to oppose us. The dream of seeing Paondhoi Ganga clean appeared to be impossible to achieve.
With this background, when all of a sudden, I received a call from the D.M. Alok Kumar to attend a meeting being called on 12th May, 2010 to discuss the project of revival of Paondhoi, my hopes also revived. I found a host of people there – many of them highly educated, dedicated, experienced and proven achievers like Dr. S.K. Upadhyay (who was chosen to play pivotal role in this Save Paondhoi campaign). The action plan was discussed again in the meeting and the decision was taken to initiate all out efforts this time. Thankfully, this time the command was in the hands of as powerful an officer as Mr. Alok Kumar, District Magistrate of Saharanpur who appeared to harbour desire for revival of Paondhoi within him much more than I did. As an added advantage, he held the position of authority and thus was in a position to move the wheels of bureaucracy too.
With the unparalleled and exemplary zeal, the group of 22 people (identified as Paondhoi Bachao Samiti, Saharanpur) led by Mr. Alok Kumar, the DM kick started the campaign the very next day and the process continued each day thereafter – every morning at 7 a.m. at the banks of Paondhoi and every evening in the office of Dr. Neeraj Shukla, A.D.M. (E) who admirably fit himself in the role of Secretary, Paondhoi Bachao Samiti. As the campaign gained momentum, even those who were skeptic initially fell in line and offered a lot of cooperation and assistance as days passed. One newspaper reporter who happened to be in our car in the morning of 13th May, confided an “inside information’ with us that the Paondhoi campaign was to last till 20th May 2010 only!” “Why?”, when we enquired incredulously, he just smiled knowledgeably but didn’t reveal his source of ‘information’.
Today, the people of Saharanpur have sensed the benefit for the first time perhaps, what changes the cleanliness of the river may bring to them in their lives. Just four months back, the idea of having a public function of such magnitude on the banks of Paondhoi river was considered too far fetched to be of any use. But to great joy of local population, it became a reality today. But it is just a beginning. We want this dhobighat to be shifted to some other suitable location. We also want that site should be used as bathing ghat where prayers would also be performed twice every day like Har-ki-Paidi. We want fishes in the river, beautiful bridges across the river to join both the banks for padestrians, beautiful lamp posts every few meters on both banks of the river, benches for the morning walkers and evening strollers to take rest for a while and to feed the fishes. We also want this river to have paddle boats so that small children would enjoy a ride in the river. Since we have already achieved this much, there is every reason to believe that whatever remains will also be achieved. Amen !
- Sushant K Singhal
Member – Paondhoi Bachao Samiti,
email : firstname.lastname@example.org