After a day of much furore and uncertainty over the Bombay High Court's remarks questioning the holding of IPL matches in times of drought, the court has refused to stay the first encounter to be held in Mumbai. The order comes as an anti-climax after a day on which news was dominated by dramatic number-crunching comparing water used during the tournament and the water scarcity in parts of Maharashtra.
A division bench of the High Court has declined to stay the match on the grounds that the respondent has made all arrangements for the clash, CNN-IBN reported. The first march will be held on 9 April at the Wankhede Stadium.
However, the court has asked the government to give a detailed reply on the situation by 12 April. The court also noted that the petition was filed at a late stage.
On Wednesday, the court had suggested shifting matches outside the state considering the prevailing drought situation.
"Only if water supply to BCCI is cut, you will understand," the court observed.
In strongly-worded observations, the court had remarked, "How can you (cricket associations and BCCI) waste water like this? Are people not more important than your IPL matches? How can you be so careless? Who wastes water like this? This is criminal wastage. You know what the condition is in Maharashtra?"
The court asked the Mumbai Cricket Association how much water would be used at Wankhede stadium, to which MCA's advocate said they would be using over 40 lakh litres for the seven IPL matches to be held there. To this, the court said it is a huge number.
The court also told the state that it is ultimately the government's responsibility and duty to do something about the water wastage and impose some kind of restraint..
"Only if water supply to BCCI is cut, you will understand," the court had observed. However, with the court declining to stay the match in Mumbai, the BCCI would heave a sigh of relief, at least for now.
Meanwhile, lashing out at the BCCI for converting Indian public to "zombies of cricket" by foisting tournaments like IPL "tamasha", former Sports Minister MS Gill on Thursday asked the Board to have some sanity in its thinking and shift the matches of the lucrative T20 competition out of drought-hit Maharashtra.
Gill, who served as the Union Sports Minister from April 2008 to May 2009 and currently a Rajya Sabha member from Punjab, was reacting after Bombay High Court raised questions on why water should be "wasted" on hosting IPL matches in Maharashtra when the state is facing one of its worst-ever droughts.
"The drought condition in Maharashtra is so severe that in a few days people in areas like Marathawada will not even have a glass of water to drink. As a former Sports Minister and ex-Agriculture Secretary, I know that several parts of Maharashtra are bone dry and I am amazed that in this situation the BCCI wants to hold these IPL matches," Gill told PTI on Thursday.
Maharashtra's horrendous drought situation is perhaps the best opportunity for the state's cricket associations (MHA, VCA & MCA) and the BCCI, which are caught in the eye of the storm, to come up with long term solutions to the crisis.
Like Vedam Jaishankar argues in this piece, BCCI should also learn a few lessons on water management from its affiliated unit, the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) or the few socially conscious golf courses operating in the country. Hopefully, the jolt from the courts will get BCCI and all their affiliated units to seriously look at KSCA's initiatives and emulate them.
The drough crisis has not overtaken state capital Mumbai yet, but water has become scarce. The way bodies like BCCI look at issues like drought in Maharashtra is an indication of the disregard they have for citizens’ concerns.
Mahesh Vijapurkar of Firstpost has rightly argued in this piece:
"This disconnect between the victims of acute, perhaps even unprecedented, water scarcities across an entire region, and those who have access to water in abundance, is disquieting. The latter category would not understand what it is like to not have water at the turn of a tap. People in Marathwada are actually migrating, hospitals in Latur are not performing surgeries, and even water that comes in through tankers could be of questionable quality."
In such a scenario, Bombay HC and Supreme Court's directive come as music to the ears of the drought-stricken villagers. However, they should be aware, being frequent victims of the vagaries of nature, that whatever governments do, relief will not be immediate.