As many of you know, the Rally for Rivers is coming up from 3 September onwards. Why this Rally? Why do we need to create broad-based awareness and support? India’s rivers, water bodies, and soil are depleting in a much more serious manner than most people realize or are willing to admit. This is not alarmist talk – there is strong scientific evidence. There are simple things that could have been done to prevent this, but that hasn’t happened. At this point, we cannot leave it in the hands of individuals anymore. We are driving towards a mandatory, enforceable policy.
Rivers are a concurrent subject between the central government and the state governments. The Center is only able to pass an overarching policy, but it’s the states that have to take it up and implement it. That is why we are going on this Rally through sixteen states. I’m personally driving from Coimbatore to Kanyakumari, and from there up to the Himalayas. This is to galvanize support from the states. Fortunately, all the Chief Ministers confirmed their attendance. In every city we go to, there will be a big event. And before that, we need to raise large-scale awareness across the country.
On 1 September, the media campaign will start on television channels, newspapers, everywhere. Almost the entire English media and Hindi media, as well as some Tamil media, have come together to voluntarily support the campaign, without payment. Major media houses are full-on creating awareness, running ads, and making their own productions. It’s been an incredible run of support from all directions. You may have seen all the tweets from film stars, cricketers, and so many other people. From school children to celebrities, from simple farmers to the tallest leaders in the country, everyone has been supporting this campaign absolutely. This Rally is not about me or Isha Foundation – this is about the nation and the future of our children.
As part of the campaign, on 1 September, between 08:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m., hundreds of thousands of people across the country, in all the major cities and towns, will just stand with a simple, blue “Rally for Rivers” placard. Make sure all of you have one. Each one of you should stand by yourself in one of the popular places and main streets of your city. Leave at least fifty feet space to the next person. Don’t stand in groups, because that would be seen as a protest. This is not an agitation. An agitation is always against someone. No one is against this, because everyone consumes water.
Why do we need this campaign, these missed calls, this public support, and this Rally? If a government wants to pass a policy like this, it means heavy financial outlays and many lifestyle changes. Many things have to be done that are not election-winning policies. It is time the people of India make a clear statement to the government that we have matured. We are not expecting freebies but a long-term policy for the wellbeing of the nation. If we want this policy to succeed, we have to aggressively pursue it. It will take eight to fifteen years to fully implement it. If we do this, in twenty to twenty-five years, the flow of the rivers will increase by about twenty to twenty-five percent.
We need the government to make a long-term policy. Since the lifetime of a democratically elected government in India is five years, generally, in whatever they do, they are thinking about the next election. It is important that the people of India make a clear statement: “We want you to take long-term steps to save our future, and we are willing to go through some pain in the process.” We are looking at anywhere between ten to thirty crore missed phone calls, for the leaders at the top to see the massive support for this policy, so that they approach it with the confidence that people are with them. We will not settle for small fixes here and there. We are aiming for a comprehensive, long-term solution for the wellbeing of the country.
This is vital for our survival. The soil condition and the water situation in the country are abysmal. With over 1.3 billion people, if our soil and water fail, it will be a horrible disaster. We want to ensure that doesn’t happen. I want you to demonstrate your responsibility. On 1 September, hold up your placard and get people to join – the more, the better. Let’s stand up for our Rivers and the future of our country.
Let us make it happen.