Yes, water can act as an enemy. Yesterday, I saw a tele-serial which dealt with the issue. It was a story of a doctor and her fight, set up on the backdrop of a temple. The doctor witnessed a peculiar trend of people being admitted to her hospital with similar symptoms at a particular point of the week. She found out that people visiting the nearby temple, known for its miracles, and consuming the ‘charanamrita‘ were the ones with the symptoms of the fatal disease. With more probing, she came to the conclusion that the charanamrita water, being polluted, was the main culprit. From here started her fight against superstition and stigma. She tried to convince the management of the temple as also the people, but without any success. She proposed to shut down the temple for a few days in order to clean the water. The management took offense to it. The local system was also of no help. She received a little help from the media initially, but found herself alone at the end. Eventually, she had to give up her life to prove herself correct.
The story, for me, is nothing new. Satyajit Ray, in his movie, Ganashatru made in 1989, has already dealt with the crisis. The phenomenon of people consuming polluted water in a temple and still considering it holy shows how glaring the problem is. In India, Ganges, the holy river has a large number of temples at its banks. As we visit these places of worship, we are alarmed to see the amount of waste floating in the water which people use. Religious fanaticism and superstition do not deter people from referring that water as ‘holy’ and which can cause miracles ! It is understandable in a country where a large segment of the people are illiterate.
The actual problem lies with the management, who take advantage of such superstition and fanaticism. India is a land of temples where many of them have been pronounced as tourist spots. We can actually witness a lot of foreigners thronging here and there along the threshold of the temples and the areas surrounding it. Being a tourist spot the temples draw a huge amount of money as donation. Hence, the management does not want to close a temple for even a single day. Here, comes to the forefront the perils of greed even when the place is on the verge of an epidemic. It is the media which can play an active role in unmasking the voracity of the management during such times. On the contrary, what we generally witness is the collusion of the media and the bureaucracy.
Anything, which is the source of an epidemic, be it water or a bird, should be treated with immediate effect. Rather than shying away from the responsibility, it is always better to prevent it and cure it. The management, on humanitarian grounds, should be generous enough to help volunteers and activists solve the problem rather than dismissing them by terming ‘heretic’. There are a lot of people who are aware of troublesome water surrounding temples and generally avoid visiting such places. So, in order to attract more tourists in the future, the management should extend their helping hands rather than criticizing others. The water supply system should also be checked on a regular basis so that problem of this magnitude does not occur. It is the co-operation of the management, waste management by the people and a little bit of help from the government and not the menace of the bureaucracy which can, in reality, make the temples and it’s surrounding areas ‘holy’.