THE Bombay High Court activism in re the IPL has become the gift that goes on giving. But as with most gifts, some of the writing that is emerging from the mess makes you wish you could exchange it for something else, something better.
I noticed social media going ga-ga over this piece by Shekhar Gupta, for instance. Gupta makes a heck of a lot of points — about our attitude to sport, about nationalism, about the IPL being seen as a rich man’s amusement… Without getting into whether these points are in themselves valid, what the heck has any of this to do with the question?
The problem with the court ruling is not any of the things Gupta meticulously catalogues, but a far simpler one: the ruling does not solve the problem it ostensibly sets out to, which is widespread drought. And since part 2 of this post from yesterday rounds up the argument, I’ll leave it there.
Elsewhere, Tunku Varadarajan also writes on the same issue, and makes a far sharper case than Gupta’s random rambles:
They will leave their water behind, but will the parched farmers of inland Maharashtra benefit from it? As the economist Surjit Bhalla has written in the Indian Express, the water saved as a result of the IPL’s departure would scarcely meet a fraction of one per cent of the state’s drought-fighting needs. In fact, “saved” is quite the wrong word to describe the forgone water, for there are no plans—there being no infrastructure—to transport it to the hinterland.
So that water isn’t “saved”; it’s “unused.” One can describe it as saved only if it were destined for use elsewhere. This may seem like a pedantic point, but it’s worth making, given the narrative of morality being peddled by the Bombay high court, as well as by the economically illiterate do-gooders who came before it, brandishing their pious PIL petition.
BACK when NTR was ruling Andhra Pradesh, he once went on a ‘save fuel’ kick and, among other measures, ordered his ministers to take the train when traveling outside the capital. A couple of days later, one of his ministers obediently did just that — took a train from one city to another. The media covered the heck out of the event — reporters asked the minister for his ‘thoughts’, photographers captured for posterity the minister settling into his seat in a first class compartment… in other words, full-on tamasha.
A day later, a follow-up story had us all laughing. Turned out the minister, while taking the train, had sent his official car ahead to his destination, where it was waiting for him when he alighted. Asked WTF, the bewildered minister said: ‘I did take the train, as our honorable CM asked us to! But what am I to do when I reach my destination? How will I move around there? Of course I need my car!’
I was reminded of that story while reading this one. A minister goes to inspect drought conditions in Latur. And then:
On Friday, officials used 10,000 litres of water at a makeshift helipad at Belkund village in the parched district of Latur in Maharashtra, where the state’s revenue minister Eknath Khadse was to land. Ironically, he was there to review measures taken to tackle the severe drought and launch a scheme to tackle the water scarcity.
But the BJP has defended the administration stating water was used to settle dust which is mandatory for the chopper to land.
“Water was used so that the dust doesn’t spread in the air which could have cause breathing problems to the people around, to the passengers or the pilot. Khadse ji is a senior minister and he is suffering from health issues. Please don’t make it a big issue,” Shaina NC, spokesperson of the BJP, said.
It’s a different matter that Latur has a perfectly serviceable airport where the helicopter could have landed.
The Express story quotes an opposition politician as saying the minister in his arrogance was deliberately insulting the people of Latur. He wasn’t. The minister was, as ministers will, engaging in empty symbolism — and if such acts lead to highly risible, and unfortunate, consequences (as in the wastage of water, in this case, or the double expense of train ticket and car fuel, in the instance cited above), well, what of it?
Do you seriously expect a minister to think?!