Maharashtra, one of the most developed states in the country, is reeling under its worst crisis in decades due to dry run in the summer rainfall during the last couple of monsoon season.
The western state has the largest number of dams in the country. Yet, there has been a severe water crisis. Successive droughts due to the patchy monsoon run have broken the backbone of the state’s farm-dependent economy.
Many deaths of farmers recorded as suicide in the state last year with the majority of the unfortunate deaths taking place in Marathwada and Vidarbha regions, the worst drought affected farming belts of the state.
Almost all water bodies – rivers, ponds, wells, tube wells – have gone virtually dry. Dam reservoirs have hit their precariously low storage capacity levels, causing the water scarcity in Maharashtra.
In fact, the collection of water has become the day’s main job for millions of poor people in rural areas of the state.
The rate of children dropping schools has magnified as they risk of going deep down in dry wells to collect muddy water. In many places, clashes over water forced the local administration to issue prohibitory orders.
The huge influx of farming families took place during the last couple years from villages to mirage metropolis of Mumbai in search of work.
This lot sleep in open under the sky by the roadside and near drains. Isn’t it an emergency crisis situation? In all probability, the answer would be in negative for those in power.
Otherwise, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) – world’s richest cricket body – would not have thought of holding an entertainment extravaganza called Indian Premier League (IPL) in a state where instances of farmers committing suicides are rampant?
A non-governmental organization, Loksatta Movement, moved to Bombay High Court with a public interest litigation demanding a ban on IPL that was supposed to use (or misuse) 66 lakh litres of water to maintain the pitches at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai.
Last week, the Bombay High Court ordered shifting of 13 matches out of Maharashtra.
One may say the state government could have taken the same decision from the beginning. Or, the opposition could have campaigned against holding the matches.
At the end of the day, IPL is owned by some of the richest and powerful people in the country. IPL and BCCI are milch cows for many who also happen to be prominent leaders of ruling as well as opposition parties.
Not just politicians, celebrities including cricketers, film stars, corporate, and even a section of media have their stakes in IPL franchises.
There is not much debate about drought vis-a-vis cricket in the media. A few news channels and newspapers have extensively covered stories on the current water crisis in Maharashtra and cases of suicides by farmers.
But eyebrows of the high and mighty were raised after the Bombay High Court ordered shifting of matches.
IPL chairman Rajiv Shukla (also Congress politician) reasoned on news channels that several events take place (in Maharashtra) despite water crisis.
BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur (also a BJP MP) said IPL matches would have used 0.00038 percent of water of the state!! (He should have spelt out the equivalent of the percentage in term of litres or gallons).
Former cricket star Sunil Gavaskar said IPL was singled out while there are several other water-guzzling activities.
Indeed, a responsible pro-people government should have taken steps long back to save precious water for greater common good.
It could have stopped the supply of water to the golf course or swimming pools of five-star hotels, as pointed by many following the High Court order.
The reality is that despite the drought and poor rainfall over the years, successive Maharashtra governments have issued licenses to industries, liquor companies and bottling plants to draw huge quantities of water from reservoirs and other sources.
Few years back, when asked how he was planning irrigation in drought-affected areas of Maharashtra, a powerful minister in the previous Congress-NCP government shamelessly posed a counter-question saying should he urinate (to irrigate land)!
During the current drought and water crisis, thousands of litres of water were reportedly wasted on preparing a helipad to ensure safe landing of the helicopter of a minister at parched Latur in the state.
Apparently, in a democracy like ours the ruling class, now comprising the mostly super rich people, has a different perspective on all issues. It has its own vested interests that are diametrically opposite to the interest of those of the common masses it rules over.
This is not confined to Maharashtra only but the entire country. In reality, this is how the ruling class behaves everywhere in the country.
They behave in such a manner because they think they have the government machinery as well as mass media under their control.
They are confident of winning polls with jazzy campaigns by spending thousands of crores of rupees, and swaying public opinion using the glamour of film stars and cricketers who common people sadly look up to as “real heroes”.
Let’s see how long they will continue to do so!