Bharat was divided on the basis of religion into India and Pakistan (and now Bangladesh). Thereafter India was split into several pieces on the basis of languages. Tamil Nadu and Kerala came into being on the basis of languages, but the umbilical chord that runs through the nation in the form of our common culture and civilization cannot be erased so easily. Moreover, Malayalam, the language of Kerala, is nothing but an offspring of Sanskrit and Tamil in almost equal measure.
But the horrific picture of a Mullaperiyar Dam (situated in Kerala for providing water for a few districts in Tamil Nadu) that is about to burst at any time has brought in more damage to the friendliest of relations that have existed for hundreds of generations. An innocuous dam that is providing lifeline to more than four districts of Tamil Nadu has suddenly become a water bomb that is threatening the lives of millions in Kerala.
Every dam is a potential hazard and it is definitely more so when it is over a hundred years old. Mankind has mastered the science of predicting almost anything except of course a few natural phenomena like earth quakes. They can occur at any place and at any time. The scientific explanations in terms of fault planes that occur later remain as irrelevant and useless as our explanations about the fluctuations in currency rates and gold prices after they occur. But such unpredictable natural phenomena have never prevented mankind from progress and development. We have always found reasonable solutions to all our problems by use of appropriate technology in scientific ways. The same scientific temper should have taken the lead in finding a solution to the dam issue. But instead some known evil forces have taken the lead to misuse the opportunity for their own petty ends. The damage it has done is much more far-reaching than the reach of life-giving water it provides.
Biggest bane of Kerala’s political democracy is the existence of ‘needle’ communal parties and its complete polarization into two political coalitions. Though power always shifts from one to the other every five years, these needle parties always find a few slots in the ministries and that invariably results in the undoing of whatever good the ministries achieve. It is quite surprising to note how such rabidly communal parties can operate in a so-called secular country. A nation which was divided on the basis of religion can allow the growth of communal political parties only at its own peril. Yet the narrow political objective of the so-called national parties is failing the soul of Indian nation once again. There are so many reasons to conclude that the present spurt in dam alarm is on account of meeting of minds of two such rabidly communal political parties in power – one with intense local interests and another one because they are indifferent about the place.
The timing of the spurt in agitation is also very much noticeable. Sabarimala shrine has been a problem for many for many decades because of its location amidst an unfriendly environment. Its unprecedented growth in terms of number of pilgrims and the resultant potential of evolving into a much awaited unifying force multiplier cutting across all forms of man-made divisions within the majority community is a nightmare for many political players in the God’s Own country. The state has the maximum number of emigrants and most of the major decisions about Kerala now are taken abroad by collegiums of our own men and international forces with their own agenda. It rarely happens but the dam provided a unique opportunity for all the players to come together and make the best ‘use’ of the dam. After the Sabarimala season the whole cacophony has died down and that makes the situation much more suspicious.
But the potential problem associated with any water reservoir dam is always existent and it has to be addressed in normal course in a purely scientific manner. A dam is also to be treated as a utility with an economic value associated with it, and like all utility equipment, its annual depreciation must provide enough reserves to rebuild once it passes the allowable age. Mullaperiyar dam has already crossed its limit and technologists must suggest the best solution. India has some of the best technological institutions and brains in the current world and it is not at all an issue to get a study done within a few months. Politics is a curse when it gets mixed with anything else and politicians must be kept out of the picture in all such scientific pursuits. This should include even those who have come into politics from the fields of science and technology. Only ‘sitting’ technologists must indulge in such scientific studies. And in a democracy like India the final decision will always be that of the elected government.
It is also time for all of us to understand that other than unconditional love (which is perhaps only from parents and spouse), all that sustains our lives has a price. Strictly speaking there is absolutely nothing that is free of cost. This is true with regard to the air we breathe, the water we drink and the earth we tread on. Whatever be the history behind it, all the beneficiaries of Mullaperiyar dam must realize that they have to pay for the services it is providing and allow for reconstruction when its useful life is over. It is drinking water and breathing air, and not oil and gas, that are going to be the premium commodities in twenty first century. The beneficiary state must be willing to compensate the rightful owner of dam and its water in the case of Mullaperiyar. Kerala and Tamil Nadu must be willing to finalise a purely commercial agreement for sale of water, and not in wasting their time and energy by allowing petty politics (and politicians) to hijack such sensitive issues.
But all said and done, the damage caused in the name of dam’s age, is going to take years to heal. The mean manipulators have also tasted success by the fall in number of Sabarimala pilgrims and the sense of insecurity it has created among those who visited Sabarimala this year. There is no doubt that the same evil forces will be at full bloom next year too at the same time to repeat their show of insane solidarity. They know very well that a few years of repeated efforts will achieve what they really intended. Barring the laudable levels of literacy achieved by the state, all other indications about Kerala are highly alarming and worrisome. The God’s Own Country in terms of its landscape and natural resources is slowly slipping into another Valley of Discontent, quite in line with a nasty NRI agenda.