Ragpickers in Rishikesh: Gujarat to Ganga Paryavaran Yatra

Inauguration of the Paryavaran (Environment) Yatra at Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh

The Hon’ble Governor of Uttarakhand, Smt Baby Rani Mauryaji graced Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh to join the President and Spiritual Leader, HH Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, and Secretary-General of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji in welcoming one hundred Paryavaran Mitras, women serving in Gujarat as ragpickers and sanitation workers, to the banks of Mother Ganga at Parmarth Niketan (Rishikesh).

Pujya Swamiji shared His opening remarks and blessings, “To me you are not just Ragpickers but Rashtra Sevaks, doing the real pooja and worship of our nation temple. It is one thing to receive items and awards of appreciation and it entirely something else to be honoured as the award and the gift. Each one of you is a gift and blessing to Gujarat, to the Nation and to this Earth. Your intentions and dedication are the seed and the water that makes our nation strong and resilient. We are so glad to welcome you home to the banks of Mother Ganga for a pilgrimage that will be deeply transformative and inspiring.”

Sadhvi Bhagawatiji shared, “When people heal and treat others they often are referred to as doctors or nurses but you are the ones providing health, hygiene and healing to the people, the communities and the Earth so to me what you do is just as crucial and respectable if not more. I also truly believe that when women lead, no matter whichever sector they may lead in, then either holding the highest seat of leadership, Spiritual Teacher or as Sanitation workers they bring in more inclusive and sustainable way of development.”

The Hon’ble Governor gave the keynote address and honoured the sister’s contributions and welcomed them to recognise the incredible power they had to not only be the change but to bring the change.

She lovingly shared that, “I am a woman from amongst you. You must know that one of your sisters has gone on to be the Governor of Uttarakhand. You must recognise your power and have faith that you are instruments of change. If you decide together that you must be respected and cultivate respect and reverence for your profession as the true service of the nation then everyone else will follow suit.”

She expressed her great joy and happiness on welcoming them home to the Himalayas.

The ceremony began with a beautiful lamp lighting ceremony, sharing from the sisters and the coordinators of the Yatra. The sisters happily offered to the Hon’ble Governor the beautiful gifts they made from recycling plastic bottles and caps. The Hon’ble Governor presented the women with gorgeous Chunari Saris in bright and auspicious yellow and red. She also presented the girls amongst the group with reusable sanitary napkins.

Mr Xavier Chauvot de Beauchene, TTL, Lead Water and Sanitation Specialist, World Bank India joined with Ms Upneet Singh, co-TTL, Water and Sanitation Specialist, and Mr Alok Suman, Wastewater Expert and others from the Uttarakhand Peyjal Department.

On the occasion a delegation of the Sparsh Ganga team also joined us to share their commitment to keeping Maa Ganga and Rishikesh clean, green and serene.

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