Cong, Govt slam BJP over Swamis death after fast

New Delhi: The death of Swami Nigamananda during his fast against quarrying and illegal mining in BJP- ruled Uttarakhand provided ammunition to Congress and UPA government to take on the opposition party after facing attack over corruption issues raised by Ramdev and Anna Hazare.

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh on Tuesday held Uttarakhand Government responsible for the death of the 36-year-old seer of Haridwar-based Matri Sadan Ashram yesterday and threatened to take action against the mining mafia against whom he was fighting.

"In view of the fact that the State Government has demonstrated a continued reluctance to take action against illegal mining, I think, we will have no option but to invoke Section 5 of the Environment Protection Act and take action on our own," the Minister said reacting to a volley of questions about the death of the seer after his nearly four-month fast.

AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said it was "very unfortunate and saddening" that the Chief Minister of a party(Ramesh Pokhriyal) which does not stop swearing in the name of Ganga and Ram, was busy paying his attention to the other "political game" but did not take notice of Nigamanand.

He described the seer as a person who was agitating for saving Ganges river and checking illegal mining with firm determination and in a spirit of "true Satyagrah".

"Nigamananda was being treated in the same hospital in which Ramdev was admitted. The state government has all the information but it did not pay attention to the former," the Congress leader said, adding everybody should express his or her views against "such insensitivity".

BJP attempted to play down the death saying the seer was fighting for the order passed by the government which the High Court had quashed.

Dwivedi said it would have been better had everybody including the media had paid attention to him as he was fighting injustice and social and econmic problems.

Recalling a letter he had sent to Uttarakhand Chief Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal "Nishank" on January 6 last year, asking him to take steps to end illegal sand mining in the stretches of River Ganges at Haridwar, Ramesh said, "unfortunately, no action was coming from the state government over the last 15 months or 16 months."

In his letter, Ramesh had raised concerns regarding the deteriorating quality of water of River Ganges due to illegal mining in the stretches at Haridwar and also expressed anguish over the fast unto death protest by seers on the issue of illegal mining.

"I am extremely sorry that the swami who were fasting has died… should not have happened. I have myself been to Maitri sadan twice and I have spoken to the chief minister on a number of occasions that illegal mining is rampant in Uttarakhand… that illegal mining enjoys political patronage in the highest levels. Please take actions. But no action was taken," the Minister said.

Ramesh said he had requested Pokhriyal to carry out action against the mining mafia in the state particularly in Haridwar according to law which he is empowered to do so.

The Minister said on December 9, 2009, he had sent a team of officers from the Ministry to investigate the issue of illegal mining around Haridwar and given Pokhriyal a copy of a report that was prepared by them and invited his attention to the conclusions of the report.

BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said "the government orders on preservation of Ganga was quashed by the High Court. Nigamananda was fasting against the High Court order. He was fighting for the order passed by the government which the High Court had quashed."

"Government had admitted the sadhu in the best hospital. Even then the death that has occured. A full inquiry will be conducted," he added.