The long season of silliness continues in the country. A couple of weeks ago, the hot topic in the media was the patriotism test -- if you didn’t chant Bharat Mata Ki Jai loud enough you were not patriotic enough. Now, we have the ‘being sensitive’ test - if you don’t call for the scrapping the IPL you are not sensitive enough to the plight of fellow Indians. You can call it the ‘conscience’ or ‘morality’ test too. If you have a conscience and a moral compass guided by compassion for others, then the proof of it is in how vigorously you denounce the IPL.
Of course, the usual suspects in the rant media have taken the lead. They have played the conscience card to mobilise opinion against holding of the premier league matches in three venues in Maharashtra. The argument: how can you waste water in getting the grounds match-ready when families elsewhere in the state are struggling for a few drops of drinking water? The Bombay High Court’s tough posers to the BCCI on the subject have added bite to it.
True, the situation in Marathwada is grim. Rainfall has been sparse in the last four years in several parts of the region, and this year it has been worse. Most dams have dried up. There’s little water available for daily consumption of people. The visuals of yawning cracks in the dry farm lands and the mad jostling near water tankers bring home the gravity of it all. Desperate farmers are committing suicide and the poor have little to survive on – indeed, Firstpost is running a 13-part series on the crisis. Against this backdrop, using 65 lakh litres of water to keep the stadiums prepared appears criminal indeed.
But is shifting IPL matches from the state to some other a solution to the problem in any way? In the made-for-television event, nobody would miss much if they are taken to other states. When the second edition of the league was shifted to South Africa, fans across India didn’t suffer. The only ones who would grumble are those who want to be physically present in the stadiums to enjoy the matches. But coming back to the main question, how is it going to change the ground reality in the drought-affected areas?
Here are a few more questions:
1) If it’s a matter of wasting water in Maharashtra, then isn’t it a matter of wasting water in other states too? Several important states are going through a situation of water scarcity. Gujarat, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have a drought situation; parts of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh are affected too. Now, how much elbow-room is available to shift venues?
2) A lot of effort goes into preparing pitches and grounds. It’s a long process and it involves among other things copious use of water. This is true of not only cricket grounds, but grounds for all other sports, including golf and football too. Are the venues in water surplus states, if at all the matches move there, prepared to host them?
3) Is there a guarantee that the water saved with this move would get transferred to the drought-affected areas? No. Transportation is a hugely expensive proposition and in any case the quantity shifted would be a drop in the ocean. The problem in these areas is chronic and it needs long-term solutions such as better storage and irrigation facilities, not quick fixes. The government, rather than the BCCI, should be facing tough questions from all concerned.
4) IPL is not about thrills and frills only. It generates jobs, not only for upcoming cricketers and for a large number of people associated with peripheral activities around the matches. It provides a stimulus to several local businesses, creates temporary jobs. Would not shifting venues hurt many who would come in the poor category?
5) What about other non-sport activities that involve wastage? Water is a major problem in the affected areas, but not the only problem. There’s an acute scarcity of food in the affected areas. Shouldn’t the focus be on wasteful habits in this area too? Will shifting matches in any way help alleviate the real problem?
The concern for the suffering people in drought-hit regions is genuine, but the solution to it appears a knee-jerk one. In IPL we seem to have discovered the villain we all need to target our anger against. It appears silly, at best an escapist approach to a massive humanitarian problem. It’s sillier that people would come up with ‘conscience’ and ‘morality’ tests over it.