About My Project...

As a kid every time I would cross a river in India, be it the Ganga or the Yamuna or any of their tributaries, I would have a feeling that the water levels of these rivers were receding... my heart would sink seeing the industrial pollutants making their way into these rivers...

On the contrary the feeling I would get seeing these rivers close to their origins… especially the Ganga in Rishikesh is indescribable… no pollution, no signs of water level depletion … so calm and so serene… the scent of freshness in the air…

I am documenting the life around river Ganga… the life as Ganga sees and feels it... the culture the river has supported for thousands of years, the people it has sustained over the centuries, and also the human interference it has suffered over the last one century or so...

Towards that I am following the river from its origins high up in the Himalayas all the way to where it merges with the Indian Ocean. All the while I am meeting with people who have been close to the river to narrate their feelings about the river, what they feel about the part Ganga has played in the Indian civilization and culture, what we human beings have done or could do or have not done to save this mighty river…

My final aim is to narrate the whole documentary as a multimedia and a book. I invite anyone and everyone to please help me with suggestions... critique... and hospitality. I would love to hear your suggestions and incorporate them into my project.

Note: The contents of this blog including the pictures are copyrighted and may not be copied or downloaded without prior permission of Rahul Rathi.
Disclaimer: This is a personal project of Rahul Rathi. He is not responsible for the accuracy of the contents here in and may not be sited as a reference without confirming the accuracy.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Kahalgaon: Plight of the fishing community there!

Kahalgaon: Although I started my Bihar journey from Bhagalpur, but I am narrating my visit to Kahalgaon first and foremost. That is because it was in Kahalgaon I realized that this project of mine is much more than just a photographic journey. The plight of the fishing community in this town was heart-breaking
India used to have "zameendars" during the British occupation. [Zameen = Land; Dar = Owner/Lord]. In the state of Bihar the waters of river Ganga were also "owned" by "zameendars" and this system was termed "paanidari" [Paani = Water; Dar = Owner/Lord].

Although "zameendari" system was abolished by the Indian government in 1954, the "paanidari" system was not. It thrived for a long time, with "paanidars" holding onto waters of river Ganga and making the fishermen fish in those waters. But the catch however belonged to the "paanidars" and the fishermen were left with almost nothing. Plus they were taxed on top of that. [According to Tarun Kanti Bose, the Ganga was divided into two stretches between Sultanganj and Kahalgaon, each stretch belonging to one "zameendar", thus there were only two such "paanidars"].    

In 1982 the fishing community from the Kahalgaon area started a movement to get the "paanidari" system abolished. It was the Ganga Mukti Andolan [Save the Ganga Movement]. 

I am addressing the fishing community at the Ganga Mukti Andolan head-office in the town of Kahalgaon. After listening to their plight it was hard to concentrate on my photo expedition. I promised them I would try my best to get their situation known to the world. Photo: Subhasis Dey
The fishing community won their battle against the "paanidari" system in 1990, only to lose it again in 1991. This time to the government. The waters of river Ganga from Sultangnaj all the way up to Kahalgaon and beyond (areas bordering the state of West Bengal) were declared a sanctuary. As a result fishing was prohibited!

--to be continued--