In the contemporary context, religious leaders and ritual practitioners who play the religion card in their own everyday politics do not exhibit a sustained interest in environmental rhetoric or in rhetoric that promotes the protection of the river Ganga's purity or flow. Activism in terms of promoting environmental clean-up or city clean-up projects is also low on their agendas. Like religious leaders, political leaders have also not made great efforts to ideologically exploit the message of ecological or environmental purity or cleanness, with the exception of the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Although religious and political leaders have taken up the issue of "cleaning" or "saving" the river on several occasions and have made references to the spiritual significance of Ganga when explaining the importance of their cleaning programs, they have taken little interest in effectively exploiting this issue in popular politics. Instead, environmental programs initiated by the state are rather lifeless in ideology and do not connect with the soul of Hindu culture. Religious programs of pilgrimage to river banks and rituals involving river water as a purifying agent do not connect with environmental programs in any sustained way.
Indeed environmentalism is an imported late twentieth century concept and there is no intent here to argue that it has indigenous roots or some commensurability with indigenous knowledges of the environment or resource management practices. However, there is an interesting history to this and part of that history can be found in colonial encounters with religious leaders and with contemporary debates between religious leaders and government officials.
Last Updated: April 02, 2017