To my surprise, an earlier post on the pointless symbolism of shifting the IPL out of Maharashtra resulted in emails (and messages) from several friends. The consensus was this: While they agree that shifting cricket out of a drought-hit state does not solve the problem, symbolic gestures are not to be sneered at either — they are, I am told, a way of increasing general awareness of a problem.
Okay, if you say so. Now consider a few recent instances of “raising awareness”:
Uma Bharti says drought cannot be planned for in advance. That is a startling statement for anyone to make — and it is much worse when it comes from the Central minister in charge of water resources and river development.
Bharti’s reported statements are revelatory. Sample this:
Ms Bharti, however, said that water is a state subject and that she has traveled to drought-hit states, giving stern lectures to state governments to take steps to counter water crisis.
That’s it. That’s what the concerned minister can do — travel the country giving “stern lectures”. And, of course, blame previous governments for the crisis — in which she is joined by her ministerial colleague Radha Mohan.
Mohan gives Sonia Gandhi an elementary lesson in geography. Vidharbha, he says, is not Italy. And then he goes on to say that the problem is with the corruption of the previous government — which of course it is, at least in large part. But wasn’t that the very reason said previous government was booted out, and a new one elected?
Further, he informs us that the current crisis is because of poor planning by the previous government — which is a bit much, when his colleague and the minister in charge of water resources has just said it is not possible to plan for such things.
Not trying to score debating points here. It is just that such statements present a cumulative picture of a government that has no idea what to do — short, medium, and long term — about a nationwide crisis, and has, therefore, resorted to the default option of blaming it all on the other fellow.
Congress politicians are no better when it comes to insensitivity — from Karnataka comes the news that Chief Minister Siddaramaiah went on a tour of Bagalkot — preceded by a tanker spraying water on the roads he was driving through so the honorable CM wouldn’t be discommoded by dust from the parched land. And elsewhere, Maharashtra’s minister for water resources (Uma Bharti’s counterpart in the state) responds to the crisis by touring Latur and taking smug selfies.
2 selfie with bandhara pic.twitter.com/OKFeyT3OPS
— PankajaGopinathMunde (@Pankajamunde) April 16, 2016
All of this is why the symbolic gesture of shifting the IPL scares me pallid — not because symbolism is per se bad, but because, in this case, the symbolism is symptomatic of clueless governments at both the Center and state (and the courts) who, incapable of systematically working on short term relief and long term planning, resort to meaningless gestures and asinine statements.
In passing, a question for Ms Bharti to consider: If it is not possible, as she says, to plan for drought — by, say, rethinking the prolific, and largely pointless, construction of dams along waterways, by planning and creating aquifers in drought-prone areas in order to store precious rainwater, by denying permission to builders to destroy existing lakes and construct concrete monstrosities, by ensuring that existing laws against the misuse of water are rigorously implemented, and a host of other measures — then what is the point of a water resources ministry in the first place?
The flailing attempts of the governing class to cope with the crisis reminds me of the Ogden Nash doggerel:
They take the paper and they read the headlines
So they’ve heard of unemployment, and they’ve heard of breadlines
And they philanthropically cure them all
By getting up a costume charity ball.
One thought on “Drought, redux”
1. If publicizing a problem has value, then why send these messages privately?
2. Not sure the ministers are speaking on behalf of the ministries, the political party or their own private opinions. For example, sending water through train tankers is the first time in history because it is not the most efficient or effective way to solve the problem.
3. I guess in a democracy we get the ministers we deserve (not necessarily the most deserving).
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