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IPL Or India Pani Lapata: PARCHED THROATS BECKON FUTURE, By Poonam I Kaushish, 26 April, 2016 Print E-mail

Political Diary

New Delhi, 26 April 2016

IPL Or India Pani Lapata


By Poonam I Kaushish


“Mama, what’s the big deal about water? Just give them Pepsi instead.” A reaction of an eight year-old urban kid to the famine sweeping across the country. Words which reflect the tragedy and brutality of India today as 10 States battle drought, debt and death affecting over 25 per cent of our population, a staggering 33 crore people. Epitomizing, the country’s languor to its farmers.

Imagine four train loads of water are the lifeline for 128 villages and 12 towns in Rajasthan. These trains fetch 6 million litres from Jodhpur for 4 lakh people in Pali. In Andhra Pradesh, only 34 out of 116 municipalities get regular water for an hour twice a week.

In UP the situation is so bad that police officers are forced to escort tankers as dabang mafia hijacks them. In Aurangabad in Maharashtra, three crore people depend on tankers for water supply! Official statistics aver that 2.55 lakh villages in 254 districts are drought affected and 637 villages facing acute water shortage.

Worse, so severe is the famine that not only are farmers committing suicide but it has resulted in a full blown public health crisis. Whereby, doctors in drought-struck regions are putting of surgeries as there is no water even to wash their hands!

Take Latur, its five lakh population’s lifeline are water tankers which come every two-three days. Worse, this water is so polluted that people are contracting diseases like jaundice, typhoid and gastroentities.

Juxtapose this with that over 10,000 litres of water was wasted to create a temporary helipad for the Union Agriculture Minister to visit a famine-hit district in Haryana. And two tankers were emptied to prevent dust from rising from a road being visited by Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah in a drought-affected district.

Less said the better about the over three lakh (300,000) litres of water being required to maintain a cricket pitch. With 60 matches being played in the ongoing ninth season of the IPL it translates into over 1.8 lakh crores litres of water.

Bringing things to such a pass that the Bombay High Court rapped the Maharashtra Government for its shoddiness in dealing with the acute water crisis resulting in farmers committing suicide and forced it to shift IPL matches from the State.  “People are dying. You are not serious. This is not some picnic….How can you waste water on stadiums. Are people more important or IPL matches?”

Trust our rhino-skinned netas to now approach the Supreme Court to allow the matches. Simply because IPL is a fizzy cocktail of big bucks, million dollar boys, Bollywood sirens and superstars, business magnates and beautiful women, airline tycoons, glitterati and chatteratti, razzmatazz entertainment topped by skimpily clad cheerleaders et al.

With money becoming the driving force of the sixes, bumper, silly mid-off, first slip, LBW, googly etc has IPL clean-bowled the gentleman’s game. Of millions made and millions lost by a spin of the ball. Clearly, instant cricket never had it so good and IPL never fails to deliver and how!

Tragically, the heady mix of glitz and glamour plus an insatiable craving for instant riches, bulging bank accounts, bankruptcy of scruples, shady whispers of underworld funds and omnipresent fixers have slowly but surely taken control of the wheels of the IPL juggernaut. Undeniably, today the IPL underscores that cricket has less to do with sport and turned into a game of power and paisa.

Questionably, so caught up is everybody in the IPL that none cares a damn about drought, farmers’ suicide, rural distress etc. All dismiss it as a bad dream. Alas, our leaders don’t know the reality of Asli Bharat which they ad nauseum vow to protect. Worse, they don’t care a damn.

Bluntly, our politicians who follow the dictum ‘might is right’ have not only lost the plot but are out of sync with the reality: The search for water has become the most harrowing, cruel ling and frustrating task for 21st century India.

Contrary to earlier beliefs that water scarcity was confined to urban areas due to lop-sided development and large scale migration, the problem has enveloped the countryside too.

This is not all. Since about 67 per cent of the population is still dependent on rain, groundwater continues to be lifted indiscriminately. Consequently, there is a sharp drop of 3 to 5 per cent every year in the water tables (from 20-30 ft to 300-400 ft).

In some areas all the three levels of soil stand exhausted. Add to this, no plans are in the pipeline to decongest highly populated areas, which result in too many tubewells and a lowering of the groundwater table.

The misery is compounded by the fact that the lakes and water resources are fast drying up. The ground water level is going down fast. In Hyderabad, the magnificent Usman Sagar has dried up. In Gujarat’s Saurashtra and Kutch regions, there is no water at the depth of 1200 ft. over 2.5 crore people are in distress.

Drought has wreaked havoc all around. A study reveals that over 203 of the 401 class II towns get less than 100 litres of water per person per day. In Rajasthan, 10 towns get water once in three days and 31 in two days. With basins and rivers drying up, the country’s food security is being threatened.

Scandalously, as the water crisis deepens, the Central and State Governments as usual, go through the ritual of reeling out figures to cover its failure. Asserted a Union Minister recently: “We are aware of the crisis. Water, for us, precedes roti, kapada aur makan”. Really?

Adding: “We have spent thousands of crores on accelerated rural water schemes.” Yet wells are dry and women continue to trek long distances for water. The question is not of money. The basic attitude of our rulers is all wrong.

Are they conscious of the problem? Why is something as basic as water prioritized only at a time of crisis? Why is so little done to develop a long term response? Already a warning bell has been sounded that by 2050 the country would be forced to import drinking water, thanks to the fast-depleting groundwater stock that is expected to reduce to 3,120 litres per day a person by then.

Shockingly, the groundwater availability in the country has come down to 5,120 litres, about 35 per cent of the 14,180 litres in 1951. In 1991, it was less than half of the 1951 stock. And by 2025, it is projected that the daily per capita availability will be just 25 per cent of the base year.

What is indefensible is that the Government was forewarned about the drought. Was it waiting for it to occur and then try and minimize the impact? Some measures to ease the situation are elementary. Why was nothing done to stop deforestation, which has resulted in drought-prone areas retaining less water? What is being done to stop village tanks from being silted?

Believe it or not we don’t have a full-fledged rain-harvesting plan wherein a large part of the problem could be solved by harnessing this technology, which could be optimally managed at the local self-government level. What next?

Our leaders need to pull up their socks, end their reckless drift. Offering pies in the sky and indulging in zubaani jama kharch is no substitute for much-needed pragmatism. Remember, words will not quench India’s growing thirst! ---- INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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