Isha Foundation founder Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev spoke to ET on why he thinks revitalising the Cauvery and other rivers is necessary to prevent mass migration. On the clampdown in J&K, he says sovereignty issues must be addressed before we aspire to become an economic superpower because it can derail everything easily. Excerpts from his interview:
How would you explain the importance of Cauvery Calling?
Cauvery is no longer a perennial river. Because, for almost five months, it doesn’t touch the ocean. Marine ingress is happening, and in nearly 60 km in Tamil Nadu, you will see marine water. If this happens, all along India’s 7,400 km coast, we will lose one-third of our area, which will lead to mass migrations, that will definitely cause a lot of civil unrest. If there are two consecutive monsoon failures, there is no way the government will be able to do anything. Trains and trucks cannot take care of rural distress because it is all spread out. The depletion of the Cauvery in the past seven years is steep. I think it is because bore wells are sucking deeper and pulling out more water. Watch my words, the same places that reported floods recently will report drought soon, because floods and droughts are part of the same problem. For the first time, recently, I saw the KRS reservoir brown in colour. It has always been crystal clear because it used to flow through so much vegetation, most of which is gone now. This is not just a grim picture, but reality that is showing up.
Would you see this as a policy failure on the water front?
There is certainly a policy lacuna—in case of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, we have kind of solved after 2.5 years of relentless work. Policy lacuna is also related to the various so-called environmental activists — today, if a farmer who has grown a tree on his land tries to cut it, there will be protests, he will even be arrested. I should be able to use the species I grow, only then will I dedicate my land towards planting of trees. Otherwise, why will I invest my land? 80% of the land is held by the farmer. In this land, if he doesn’t grow trees, where are you going to plant them? Government owns only 18% of the land—that of course, must be forested. That’s also not a big challenge –– it can be done in 4-5 years. The real challenge is 80% of the land which is farm land.
Your comments on the Jal Shakti ministry
The intent is good, a dedicated ministry was definitely needed. Right now, the government is trying to consolidate it. It is very vital that it happens so that Jal Shakti is empowered as a ministry.
How do you look at J&K clampdown?
The problem of Kashmir has existed for decades and an intervention was necessary. What intervention should have been made is left to the elected government of the country. We can always question the wisdom of the government, but letting the problem fester forever is not the solution. What governments have done till now is kick the can of these troublesome issues for the next government to handle –– be it the problem of Kashmir, illegal migrants over even the Ram Janmabhoomi. I am glad that the government is at least taking the trouble by the horns. J&K has been going into clampdowns all the time but it is imposed by someone else. Right now, the government is not clamping down permanently, they are only talking about clamping down temporarily and restoring things after. I hope this happens as quickly as possible, as peacefully as possible. Right now, from what I hear on news, they are saying 100% landline communication and cell phones are restored except three spots where there is trouble. Sovereignty issues of this nation must be addressed before we aspire to become an economic superpower because it can derail everything easily. This must be settled. Which part is in India and not in India –– make it clear for the next generation. This is what the government is trying to do right now.
Your thoughts on NRC in Assam.
About uncontrolled migrations, we need to either set up a system where they can come and work here with permits and Indians can also go do business there. Any nation that has an unaccounted number of people living in it, is asking for trouble. Modern nations must know who and what kind of people are there within its boundaries. Those days are done when people could live and work anywhere. These days, even sanyasis are asked for their ID cards on trains and flights. It is not a question of politics, religion or discrimination. It is just economics. Our diversity should not work against us.
How would you look at ISRO’s attempt at landing on the moon?
It is a tremendous achievement for the country. Just because some minor thing went wrong, it doesn't mean it is failure.