Water Famine Ahead : A Wakeup Call

The IX th Plan Document forewarned Indian Government of the danger ahead. "It is grossly a misplaced conception that India is a water rich country and water is a free commodity. Amongst 121 countries where per capita availability of annual renewable fresh water in 1990 was only more than 1695 cubic meters, India ranked at 108th position. Further according to a number of studies conducted in India and abroad, India's per capita water availability status is likely to move from marginally vulnerable (as in 1990) down to water scarcity in the year 2025 onwards. Further the plan documents spell a clear perspective for the inter basin transfer of water." The plan document also finds its echo in party manifestoes that too the ruling party's manifesto. The political resolution passed at the National Council meeting of Bharatiya Janata party held at Nagpur in August 27-28 of 2000 urged "the government to consider a time bound program to link Ganga and Cauvery rivers." Yet no attempt to translate an electoral promise is being undertaken.

Writ Fails

Dravida Peravai, a tiny party registered with the Election Commission of India initiated steps to seek the intervention of the Supreme Court, but unfortunately as the lawyer engaged back stabbed the petitioner and withdrew the case, the Writ Petition (Civil) No.496/2001 while was taken up on 19 th November 2001 Hon'ble Justice B.N.Kirpal and Hon'ble Justice K.G.Balakrishnan ordered as follows: "The writ petition is dismissed as withdrawn." To seek the highest courts directive to direct the government to fix a time frame for interlinking of rivers, thus ended in a failure.

Water Crisis in Delhi 

The recent press reports indicate the alarming water crisis, and those who had dilly-dallied on interlinking of rivers are going to receive the curse of generations to come. The Chief Minister of Delhi Ms.Sheila Dixit publicly confessed that the quality of tap water in South Delhi is poor, and in several areas, water was not available at all through normal distribution lines. Awakening to the situation Delhi Jal Board is going to sell 20 litre jars of pure drinking water at a cost of Rs 15, and compared to what private suppliers of mineral water sell @ Rs.40, this price is said to be cheaper. But the irony is water is becoming costlier than milk, and daily wage earning poor have hereafter shell out money to buy water too. The Hindustan Times (July 18-2002), which broke this news, also stated that Jal board loses 40% of water due to leakages. To plug the leakages and loopholes, perhaps her present mandate is insufficient. And perhaps the Chief Minister will shed crocodile tears while her party will incorporate a slogan on water in its next manifesto. After all by coining slogans like Garibi Hatao, India voters can be swayed, elections in past has proven. So without solving problems our political class can capitalize on poverty to water scarcity. Narrating the reasons of the water crisis Ms.Sheila Dixit states that as against the requirements of 775 MGD of water, Delhi is getting 640 MGD every day. Haryana has to supply 125 cusecs of water, but is not providing more than 90 cusec on average a day. Inter state water disputes wherein regionalism playa havoc with maximum utilization of natural resources for the common benefit of Indians, is another curse. The row between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka over Cauvery is a typical example of a dispute that can never be resolved, while people have to suffer.

Bizarre Rituals to Rain God 

While the scenario of Delhi and elsewhere is moving towards deterioration day by day, people have lost faith in their governments, whichever party that rules there. A report in The Hindustan Times (July 17-2002) states that at every night scores of women in a village in Etawah District of Uttar Pradesh, not very far from Taj Mahal, take off their clothes and till the fields stark naked. One local official admitted that there is a common belief in the villages that king Janak (father of Goddess Sita) and his wives themselves ploughed the fields at night naked, when his kingdom faced a severe drought. And the heavens soon opened up, the belief exists till day, resulting in woman tilling soil in nudity. People facing the drought and let down by the ruling elite are resorting to such bizarre rituals. Are we, as a civilized country going to watch helplessly such rituals, while we lack the political will to tackle the water crisis ahead?

ACT: Government Must be Told

Tata Energy Research Institute in a report states: Despite national average of 2464 cubic meters of water per capita a year, several parts face water scarcity. Take the Brahmaputra valley, where percapita availability is 18,417 cubic meters per annum while it is 411 cubic meters in the basins of the peninsula's east flowing rivers. Why plenty in one area and scarcity in another, why not divert as both are within our country?

In present days world half of the worlds population lives on less than $ 2 dollars a day, a quarter on less than $ 1 dollar a day, one third has no access to electricity, a fifth has no access to clean drinking water, one sixth is illiterate, and one in seventh adult and one in five children suffer malnutrition. The irony is that a majority of the human population is relegated to poverty while a few in society are feathering their nests. Though this is a global phenomenon every Government that swears in the name of democracy is duty bound to ensure that wealth is evenly distributed bridging the rural and urban divide. It is contrary to the very spirit of democracy that majority which exercises its franchise and gives the mandate to the rulers remain losers in the end when the benefits are garnered by a miniscule minority.

Most of the governments of the III rd World are bearing the brunt of debts; there has been some concern by the institutions like International Monetary Fund over the mounting debt burden of the third world countries. In fact historical precedents show cancellation of debts promotes prosperity and does not affect access to international capital in the long term. In the late 18th Century, USA cancelled its debts to the British crown. In the 20th century, the Russian state debt was cancelled in 1918, as also the war debts of the UK and France and the debts of the South American states after the 1929 Wall Street crash. In 1953, 51% of Germany's war debt was cancelled. In all cases the result was considerable economic expansion and subsequent access to international capital. In fact there are certain legal arguments legitimizing such debt cancellation, most notable among them are the principles of "odious debt" and "force majeure". Having all this in mind Indian government must have made an effective demand for debt cancellation aligning with the thirrd world countries. It is crystal clear that unless India comes out of its debt traps the development of the rural and poverty stricken peoples and projects like interlinking of rivers is next to impossible. While the World Bank and the Heavily Indebted Counties Initiative are discussing to ease the debt burden of 23 countries mainly from Africa, India has missed the bus. The new Finance Minister Jaswant Singh must strive to get India out of debt trap at the same time mobilize international capital to inter link national rivers and to give boost to an agrarian economy.

Water crisis, famine, violent movements, rural unemployment all are inter-connected and landmines hidden in the path of peaceful progressive march of our nation.


More by :  N. Nandhivarman

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