Bombay High Court should not have allowed the BCCI to hold an IPL fixture in Pune on 1 May, after earlier having ordered that all matches be shifted out of Maharashtra after 30 April. The state was reeling under acute water scarcity and HC allowing leeway to BCCI does not bode well for the state. The BCCI’s plea was that after a 29 April match, it was not “practical” to shift to another venue within a day.
Had it remained firm on its earlier order asking that 13 matches scheduled to be played in Mumbai, Pune, and Nagpur be shifted, it would have enforced respect for water-scarcity across the country, which has affected 33 crore people. It cannot be that water is treated as a commodity to be wasted.
The very fact that the BCCI did not approach the Supreme Court with an urgent special leave application could well have been the fear of being blasted off their feet. The apex court is in the midst of hearing a case regarding the drought situation in some dozen states, including Maharashtra.
Despite the High Court’s order, the politicians themselves seem to have no problem with water being wasted in their sake. At least three cases have emerged of water being used to spray make-shift helipads for ministers. One is of course the infamous spraying in Latur district, where water is being sent by trains from Western Maharashtra so people can have something to drink.
Here are the other brazen use of water in drought-hit parts of the country: One, what was done for Eknath Khadse in Latur, the same was done for Karnataka’s chief minister, Siddaramaiah. The CM was to garland a statue while on a tour to study drought in Bagalkot district. The district administration deployed two tankers of 5,000 litre capacity to spray the road so the visiting VIP doesn't have to encounter dust.
Uttar Pradesh too has regions under water scarcity conditions. Akhilesh Yadav, chief minister, took a helicopter to Bundelkhand’s Lalitpur. The spot where he was to land, a helipad was prepared, and you guessed it right, sprayed with water. Bundelkhand is, according to reports, running a water conservation project to save, what else, water. It is as if there is an epidemic of defiance of the concept of respect for water which Bombay High Court was enforcing.
On Monday, union agricultural minister Radha Mohan Singh visited Bhiwandi, just an hour’s drive from Mumbai in a fast car with police escort, to attend Kisan Gram Sabha on Tuesday as chief guest. He chose to use a helicopter, despite the sharp public reaction to the insensitivity displayed in Latur. These politicians defend the use of helicopters by saying that choppers are time-savers. Right now, the urgent need is to save water if it could be found. But that does not seem to have been understood by the VIPs.
However, our very important community of leaders who time and again visit drought-hit areas to study its impact, fail to understand that unavailability of water is the reason for the situation. They needn’t go there to know this, but if they have gone to study how well the administration was handling measures to ameliorate the impact, we don’t know if that was their priority at all.
If Khadse and politicians like him explain the use of helicopters, and therefore implicitly the use of water to keep them dust-free, chances are the district administrations are not going to knocked on their knuckles from the state’s headquarters. Imagine any chief secretary from Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Lucknow marshalling the gumption to pull up the district collectors who were, after all, keeping the chief ministers happy.
And they are the people who have to facilitate water to the people. It is one thing that Latur has become the image of water scarcity, but any number of villages are in dire straits. And the ministers haven't helped their cause one bit.