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This real hero is bent on cleaning the Ganga

Feb 20, 2009 01:40 PM IST India India

Patna: In CNN-IBN's special series Real Heroes, meet the man who's taken it upon himself to clean India's holiest but also dirtiest river. This is the inspiring story of Guddu Baba, who's been working hard for 15 years to regain the Ganga's lost glory. Read on...

It's not just a prayer for this man. He actually lives by this chant. On any day, he is found at the bank of the Ganga in Patna along with his volunteers, armed with spades, baskets and love for the river.

For the last 15 years, Guddu Baba has been leading the Ganga Bachao Andolan, awareness campaigns for those who take a dip in River Ganga and for those who live by it and legal battles to ensure that sewerage lines are not discharged into the river.

Guddu baba does not just leave it to payers. He gets his hands dirty so that the Ganga can be clean.

"We live in the country where the Ganga flows. The Ganga is an international river, this is our message. It already has a place in the nine international rivers in this world. It is a sacred river," he says.

Once a college teacher in West Champaran, Guddu Baba moved to Patna to live by the banks of Ganga. Seeing dead bodies being dumped into the river and the faithful taking dips in the same filthy waters, Guddu Baba started pulling out and cremating the dead.

"The Government spends lakhs every year to clean up the river but they don't have the time to put a worker or a cleaner on every bank of the river," says he.

In 1995 Guddu Baba filed a PIL in the Patna High Court asking for the river to made pollution free. The campaign was then taken out to the streets, involving those whose liveihood depended on the river. The result - the Patna Medical College Hospital stopped dumping dead bodies into the river and two of the nine defunct crematoriums are now running.

The job Guddu Baba and his volunteers perform is too disturbing to be shown on the camera - fishing out half burnt bodies and animal carcasses from the river and performing proper cremation rites for them.

This is followed by pravachan (talk) sessions, an awareness exercise through handbills and discourse for those who care to listen.

But Guddu baba knows that more, much more needs to be done.

"The Ganga has been stopped at several places, pollution is increasing. The dam that has been constructed in Uttaranchal has stopped the flow of Ganga," he says.

Call him a one man army, but Guddu baba, is a saint with difference, a saint on a mission.