DROUGHT – OF WATER – AND OF POLITICAL TRUST!

Acts of political apathy and their cruel symbolisms continue unabated – midst a deepening crisis that has forced thousands of farmers to commit suicide – in one of the worst drought seasons – displacing millions in India internally – in 10 Indian states in North and Central India including parts of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

And the problem is only exacerbating with the intensifying heat wave as mercury is soaring up. Heat wave has already claimed many lives in the affected regions.

A case study from Beed in Maharashtra came today where a Class 5th student died while fetching water from hand-pump. According to her family members, she was helping her family to get water and had repeated trips to the hand-pump where she collapsed. Beed in Maharashtra is one of the worst drought affected districts in Maharashtra (and India). In fact, we can say it is another Latur of Maharashtra.

Rather, we should say there are many Laturs in Maharashtra that need comprehensive government intervention to win over this tide of nature’s fury.

But how can we take the government seriously to the extent that all will be set right henceforth – because this nature’s fury is man-made as well?

And to add to the drought of political trust that we have towards our political fraternity, there are continued acts of insensitivity by some of our senior-most politicians – chief-ministers and ministers.

Now, it may be true that these ministers and chief ministers may not be aware that thousands of litres of water was wasted making helipads for them or in makings roads dust-free for them but when it comes to political branding based on symbolism, no one goes into the nitty-gritty of what lies beneath. It’s all about what looks on surface.

And on surface, the message that went was that the political class was not acting proactively to end people’s misery but was rather forced to act because of electoral compulsions – after Eknath Khadse (senior Maharashtra minister), Siddaramaiah (Karnataka chief minister), Akhilesh Yadav (Uttar Pradesh chief minister) and Pankaja Munde (again a senior minister from Maharashtra) were seen wasting water or exploiting their visits to drought hit areas as ‘drought tourism’.

Much has been written about drought in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh’s Bundelkhand region with consecutive years of drought. The crisis is also deepening in Karnataka with drought now spread to as many as 19 districts of the state. The politicians should take a cue from Pankaja Munde selfie incident that was otherwise a perfectly normal human response but for a human crisis perpetrated by drought. Pankaja Munde would never have imagined the incident would be painted like this.

But here it is. And so are the helipad incidents related to Eknath Khadse and Akhilesh Yadav or a dust-free road for Siddaramaiah!

In the season of India’s worst drought, it may also lead to a drought of political trust among common men and it should be a clear and present danger for our political class – as every coming year this or that state assembly election or some bye-election or some local body election is due.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

EKNATH KHADSE’S HELIPAD AND PRIYANKA GANDHI’S BUNGALOW: THIS IS OUR POLITICS, FOLKS! (II)

If Eknath Khadse is emblematic of how crassly insensitive our politicians can become, can be, the row over Priyanka Vadras’ (or Priyanka Gandhi’s) house rent is equally disturbing.

The only thing is, we have forgotten ‘getting disturbed’ over such ‘undemocratic developments’.

Not so long ago, a senior party leader of Congress, the party of Priyanka Gandhi’s mother Sonia Gandhi and her brother Rahul Gandhi, Mr. Kapil Sibal, had taken a house in the same tony location, Jor Bagh, though certainly not as posh and VVIP as Priyanka’s house is, and less than half in size, for a whopping monthly rent of Rs. 1600,000 or Rs. 1.92 crore a year.

Now, let’s jot down the obvious:

Priyanka Gandhi pays a ‘super’ subsidized rent of just Rs. 31,300 a month for her Type VI house in Lutyens’ Delhi.

The house measures 2765 sqm in size and reports say that no such big house with all its natural extensions like lawns and amenities is available for rent in the area Priyanka’s house is located.

If we go by the reports of sky-high rent being paid by Kapil Sibal, the minimum that Priyanka Gandhi needs to pay as rent around Rs. 35 lakh a month. And even then, the rent cannot match house’s expanse and location.

Priyanka Gandhi was given this house in 1997 at a monthly rent of around Rs. 53,000. Her request for subsidized rent was accepted in 2002 and her rent was fixed at 8,888 by the then Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. Now, the person who fixed it can only tell us about this interesting combination.

The revelation here is, the loss to the public exchequer since 1997 – because even a rent of Rs. 53,000 a month for a larger than life bungalow in India’s most VVIP zone in Delhi, a city where people are cursed to live in cramped houses and flats, was a jaw-opener for anyone – for its sheer meekness.

Let’s go by the simple logic – that we common folks have to shell out 10% more every year on our housing rent. That makes it roughly around Rs. 350,000 a month after these 20 years – for Priyanka’s Rs. 53,000 in 1997.

Her current house rent of Rs. 31,300 is more or less in line with this ‘annual 10% hike’ norm. So, it is a direct loss to the public exchequer – running in millions – when India’s successive governments have failed to define a proper poverty line in the country – a political class that still accepts the wisdom of expert panels that find a person above poverty line if he earns Rs. 40 a day or so (Rs. 32 rural and Rs. 47 urban) – even if Rs. 40 cannot earn a decent one time meal on the prevailing market prices.

Like the Bombay High Court said while hearing the petition on water wastage by BCCI on conducting IPL matches in Maharashtra – that it was criminal that BCCI was wasting hundreds of thousands of water in every IPL game when Maharashtra was facing the worst drought of 100 years, when people were not getting water to drink and bathe – this, too, is criminal when poverty, quality literacy, education and healthcare still need critical attention.

How can this paltry sum be justified by anyone, let alone by the party that has been in power for some 60 years of India’s 70 sovereign years?

How can Congress counter this when a simple two bedroom house less than 100 m in size in Delhi costs around Rs. 20,000 in monthly rentals and its goes up to around Rs. 50,000 or so in many upscale areas?

How can Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi justify that Priyanka Gandhi indeed needs a ‘super’ subsidy for her housing rent when Robert Vadra, her millionaire husband, claims that ‘he always had enough and he didn’t need Priyanka Gandhi to enhance his life’?

But nothing will move folks, except some hue and cry. It will die down soon. That is the state of affairs in Indian politics. That is the standard here.

Be it BJP for Eknath Khadse or Congress for Priyanka Gandhi – the colours fade into oneness, the lines blur when it comes to ‘certain’ political compulsions. It was a BJP government in 2002 that had ‘super’ subsidized Priyanka Gandhi’s housing rent. It was a BJP government that had retained Robert Vadra on ‘no frisking VVIP list’ at the country’s airports in 2014 in spite of strong reservations. It is a BJP government in Maharashtra whose minister has made mockery of farmers’ plight by wasting precious water even if his chief minister says in the Bombay High Court that the IPL matches could be taken out of the state to save water.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

EKNATH KHADSE’S HELIPAD AND PRIYANKA GANDHI’S BUNGALOW: THIS IS OUR POLITICS, FOLKS! (I)

They are quite a lot, in our kaleidoscopic politics, be it any party, including its newest entrant, Aam Aadmi Party, though the malaise there has not reached chronic levels.

In fact, if any factor that has been a constant irony in an otherwise robustly functional Indian democracy, it is about our politics, that has dragged us back, that has let us down.

Yes, there have been and there are good politicians but they have always been a rare breed.

Most have been – like in the category of Eknath Khadse – being parasitic on us – even if we are being forced to die – because our politicians have not been able to take us away from the pangs of an agricultural economy dependent on rains – even if we have seen almost 70 Independence Days.

When Maharashtra and India are witnessing one of the worst drought years, such apathy, such callousness can only be expected from a politician. Mr. Khadse saw it unfit to take even 40 minutes of road, even if he was rushing to take credit over dead bodies. Yes, Marathwada and Vidarbha crisis is as much man-made and as it is nature inflicted.

IPL was a symbolism. Its court-forced shift from Maharashtra for wasting water in maintain pitches when the state is reeling under severe drought is a lesson for everyone to get back to the business of humanism, to get sensitive to the cries of people dying, to contribute as a social obligation for your place in society.

But who will tell this to our politicians, politicians with their fiefdoms who are as much a culprit as nature in forcing droughts in lives of the common men of this country. The biggest water guzzler in Maharashtra, the sugarcane industry, has names of some of the most prominent Maharashtra politicians as its barons.

Yes, they employ thousands in their factories, but are they beyond this basic tenet of social behaviour – that you have to care for the survival of your fellow human-beings. In fact, it becomes all the more imperative for them to come up with alternatives to compensate for the cruel exploitation of natural resources, in this case water, in a drought year, as they are from the bunch who is entrusted with writing policy guidelines in crisis hours – like the Maharashtra drought of the these days.

But our politicians have made it a habit to fail us, even if we try hard to repose our trust in them.

What Mr. Khadse did was akin to mapping another level of bad politics, something that politicians like Mr. Khadse feel adept at. Books and articles have been written on how a drought is eagerly awaited by bureaucracy and politicians in India – with free flow of resources and credit to exploit.

IPL’s forced shifting from Maharashtra is a defining moment for all of us and Mr. Eknath Khadse should have thought 100 times before going on his ‘helipad bravado’ that wasted some 10,000 litres of water, 10,000 litres that are lifelines for many families. He could have taken a road journey to receive the water train. Showing a bit of sensitivity would have only helped him in claiming his share of credit in this season of photo-ops, drought-politics (and water politics).

But only if they care! But only if our politicians care for what we think!

To continue..

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

BCCI DOESN’T BELIEVE IN COMMUNICATING!

Continuing from my last article, I thought to do some more data crunching with BCCI annual reports (or income/expenditures statements to be precise). On BCCI’s official website, you can find annual reports of the world’s richest (and now insensitive) cricket body from the financial year 2007-08 onwards.

I am not saying I carried out some deep data mining. In fact, I was not in a mood to do so because, it seems, everything related to BCCI is so complicatedly dull. Account statements shown in annual reports 2014-15 and 2013-14 look straight and easy to comprehend but when you look at 2012-13 AR, the income and expenditure statements look jumbled because they don’t correlate with what you find in the next year’s AR, i.e., the income and expenditure statements for the financial year 2011-12 are different in 2011-12 and 2012-13 ARs.

Okay, there might be some heads that I might be missing. Not an issue! There are various ways to write financial data and bookkeeping and tabulation is a boringly tedious process.

Anyway, my purpose to look into ARs of BCCI is not about its financial spreadsheets and their clarity.

In the season of continued ‘ignorances’ and convenient ‘dumbnesses’, when India’s policymakers have persisted with the same set of policies that would force thousands of farmers to commit suicide, mostly due to drought, and sometimes due to freaky weather patterns, my purpose was to look into the nature of the ‘responsiveness (or social responsiveness)’ of BCCI – as the organization that controls cricket in India, a game loved (if not revered now) by masses has found itself caught in an episode that tested its commitment towards them – who give it the sanctity to exist – who make it the richest cricket body in the world – who make cricketers stars and millionaires – yes, their love for cricket – that makes cricket a massive enterprise in India.

But BCCI failed to prove enterprising for them – for the people of this country.

Let’s see some figures here.

BCCI AR

Now what do they tell?

To be continued..

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

CSR IN BCCI LOGBOOK: WELL, IT IS NOT THERE!

The Board of Control for Cricket in India or BCCI, the richest cricket body in the world, traces the history of cricket in India as far back as to 1721, as mentioned on its website.

BCCI, that was registered in December 1928 as the apex body of six private cricketing associations, showed an income of Rs. 1266 crore in its balance sheet for the year ended March 31, 2015. The 2014-15 annual report showed a fund flow of Rs. 5437 crore including the sources of funds and their application.

BCCI that claimed being a ‘charitable organisation’, availed tax exemptions for decades, before the tax authorities decided that enough was enough, that BCCI was not a ‘charitable organisation’, but an entity driven by entertainment products and commercial interests. BCCI is now in courts against around Rs. 2300 crore tax imposed on it.

BCCI that controls cricket in India, a game with mass following, with an iron hand, is facing the Supreme Court’s ire on its persistence to maintain the status quo, on its refusal to bring reforms that can cure deeply rooted corruption in the apex body of cricket in India.

How can we expect from that organisation that it will behave in a socially responsible manner and would shift the IPL matches out of drought affected regions – with 10 Indian states officially declaring drought and India facing one of the worst droughts in its history?

This is the second consecutive year when a below normal rainfall has forced the millions of Indians to struggle for a even a single drop of water and has forced thousands of farmers to commit suicide.

Today, as expected, the Bombay High Court forced BCCI to take IPL out of Maharashtra. Yes, it was logical when the court put this restriction on matches after April 30, keeping in mind the fact the holding matches at a particular venue needs weeks of planning and work.

But even then, there was no ‘common sense’ wisdom dawned upon the arrogant and insensitive BCCI administrators as they started cribbing immediately after the verdict that it was too difficult to shift venues now, that it would harm in the brand IPL, that it would cause financial damage to the franchisees, that IPL was made a soft target, and what not.

Well, you cannot expect social consciousness from an organisation that earns billions but doesn’t want to pay taxes properly and desists from spending on practices like corporate social responsibility.

A simple document search of BCCI’s latest annual report available on its website (for year 2014-15) with key search words – corporate, social, responsibility, PR, outreach, conscience, citizenship and communication – words, when used in the context of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), represent social consciousness of on organization – tells how insensitive and in fact, commerce oriented BCCI is.

Here is the ‘cheat’ sheet with the information on how many times a Communication/CSR related word has been used in the annual report and in what context: (and not even a single of them qualifies as a proper CSR word suggesting some socially responsible intent)!

CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY – 0
CSR – 0
PUBLIC RELATIONS – 0
PR – 0
OUTREACH – 0
CONSCIENCE – 0
CITIZENSHIP – 0

CORPORATE (1)

  • Corporate Trophy (under the head – expenditure related to cricketing activities)

SOCIAL (1)

  • BCCI presence on social media platforms is being significantly strengthened to connect directly with fans.

RESPONSIBILITY (4)

  • It places an enormous responsibility on coaches at the grassroots level and on administrators.
  • As much as it is our responsibility to contribute to our team’s cause, it is also up to us to remember that we are entertainers too.
  • It becomes our singular responsibility to offer the right guidance to the younger cricketers..
  • While the ICC ACSU is mainly tasked with providing anticorruption cover to international matches played between Full Member National Cricket Federations, it is the responsibility of the BCCI Anti-Corruption Unit to protect all domestic games played under the aegis of the BCCI.

RESPONSIBLE (4)

  • He along with Mr. IS Bindra was responsible for ensuring a fair deal to the BCCI.. (about Jagmohan Dalmiya)
  • He was responsible for the return of South Africa.. (about Jagmohan Dalmiya)
  • He was responsible for introducing medical benevolent scheme for the retired cricketers and umpires. (about Jagmohan Dalmiya)
  • “We feel socially responsible as a unit wearing this kit and doing our bit for the environment. (R Ashwin on India’s new jersey launch – and that too, at Melbourne)

PUBLIC (2)

  • I have to request you to make best endeavours to work towards eradicating corruption from the game of cricket at the state level and assist the BCCI in its efforts to restore the faith of the cricket loving public in cricket. Shashank Manohar
  • It becomes our singular responsibility to offer the right guidance to the younger cricketers – not just on cricketing techniques but also on how to conduct oneself in public and how to be able to differentiate right from wrong.

RELATION(S) (4)

  • There is regular flow of information and news, and relations with the media are structured in a spirit of partnership and professionalism.
  • .. by the Board and defaulted in relation to the balance franchisee fee of ` 133.86 Crores.
  • .. It becomes our singular responsibility to offer the right guidance to the younger cricketers – not just on cricketing techniques but also on how to conduct oneself in public and how to be able to differentiate right from wrong..
  • .. obligations relating to UAE league matches vest with the Board and the Franchisee shall have no rights or obligations in relation to the staging of the Matches.

COMMUNICATION (7)

  • Communication Expenses (under the head ‘administrative and other expenses’)
  • Communication Expenses (under the head ‘establishment and other expenses’)
  • During the year ended 31st March, 2010, the
  • Board received a communication from the Director of Income Tax (Exemption).. (under the section ‘income tax assessment status’)
  • The Board’s appeal with the ITAT against the said communication had been dismissed as non- maintainable by the ITAT. (under the section ‘income tax assessment status’)
  • .. the Board has also filed a writ petition before the Honourable High Court of Bombay to stay the communication of the Director of Income Tax. (under the section ‘income tax assessment status’)
  • During the year ended 31 March 2013, based on communication from Income Tax Department, the Board had paid an amount of `144.32 Crores under protest. (under the section ‘income tax assessment status’)
  • Disputed Matters with Nimbus Communication Limited (under the section ‘Dispute With Nimbus Communications Limited’)

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

MAHARASHTRA IPL MATCHES: WHY BCCI IS RISKING BRAND IPL! WHAT GURUS SAY ABOUT A BRAND’S IDENTITY!

Can IPL risk being tagged anti-farmers?

Can BCCI risk being tagged anti-people?

Can Cricket risk being tagged anti-society?

What should be the BCCI response in the Bombay High Court in the ongoing hearing over watering pitches for the IPL matches in Maharashtra when the state is facing the worst ever drought in 100 years?

Because, even if cricket is still a game with mass following in India, it is no more a sports that used to arouse nationalist sentiments in masses in India. It happened to be an Indian’s passion across the class divide. That is not the case anymore. Cricket is in imminent danger of being labelled a game played by insensitive people and manned by ignorant bosses!

There are allegations that cricketers prefer to play in club class tournaments like IPL than for the national team because of commercial considerations. The cricket administration in India needs some deep cleansing and the country’s Supreme Court is trying to ensure that even if BCCI is hell-bent on opposing them.

IPL was launched as the next big thing in cricket and initially proved to be a highly successful cricketing brand aimed at revolutionizing the way the gentleman’s game was played. It had all the elements to include a prevailing youth identity – high decibel music, colourful outfits, glamorous cheerleaders, female show hosts, and parties at the end of each day and so on.

But now in its ninth year, the IPL brand has lost much of its sheen. In fact, the IPL brand value of around 3.2 to 3.5 billion US$ may see a hit of 15%, and these estimates came before the Maharashtra drought controversy began.

To ingest a youthful character, additions like cheerleaders and after-match night parties were added to the format. There is no data on how cheerleaders have helped the brand and the game, but they have been a continuous source of controversy for the tournament. And controversies and criticism pushed the organizers to stop the practice of after-match night parties. But what caused the real damage was this revelation that the IPL matches were being fixed and could easily be fixed – and not just players were involved – but also the team owners and managers.

Award winning brand consultant Simon Mainwaring says, “The keys to brand success are self-definition, transparency, authenticity and accountability.”

Bur even after nine successful years, IPL has failed to define its character. It draws its sanctity from cricket’s mass following in India but has compromised on cricket’s ‘a gentleman’s game’ image in the blind race to commercialization – failing to ensure transparency, authenticity and accountability with its baggage of growing controversies.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos says, “A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.”

India started slowly in the world cricket and stepped up its stature gradually. It was decades of hard-work, propelled with patriotic sentiments to see India’s team winning that made it a game with mass following. Until IPL happened cricket was revered by masses. Though the dent had started in the last years of the last decade with match-fixing controversies, IPL finally started eroding that trust base. No one questioned BCCI to this extent that is happening these days as long as cricket earned its reputation by sheer hard-work and determination to play for the nation.

Starbucks’ Howard Schultz sums up this sentiment, “In this ever-changing society, the most powerful and enduring brands are built from the heart. They are real and sustainable. Their foundations are stronger because they are built with the strength of the human spirit, not an ad campaign. The companies that are lasting are those that are authentic.”

Anything but human spirit, that is what we can say about IPL now, an interest that is certainly not in human spirit, an interest that is on display here by BCCI, after its persistence on holding the 20 IPL matches in Maharashtra that would take some 7 million litres of water to maintain the grounds when Maharashtra is facing the one of the worst droughts in the Indian history.

Certainly the heart is not here, with a the human spirit, otherwise BCCI would have realized its social obligations and would have taken the lead helping the drought-hit farmers and would have shifted the IPL matches out of Maharashtra on its own. After all, BCCI is the world’s richest cricket body with around Rs. 2000 crore in annual revenue and many Indian cricketers are millionaires. In fact, taking an initiative on their own would have helped BCCI to do some good damage control exercise for the brand IPL that has been hit badly by a series of controversies.

Howard Schultz says, “Mass advertising can help build brands, but authenticity is what makes them last. If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.”

BCCI’s insistence on holding the IPL matches in Maharashtra and coming with silly counter-logics in the Bombay High Court that has already said some pretty tough words putting BCCI in the dock, something that has caused much public infamy and embarrassment, has made BCCI’s intense promotional campaign for this version of IPL, ‘Ek India Happywala’ (An India That Is Happy) look phoney, a sort of ‘rubbing salt in the wound’. It was a blunder when BCCI said it would take treated sewage water from a different entity and would transport it to Pune for the matches being held there.

The father of advertising, David Ogilvy says, “Never write an advertisement which you wouldn’t want your family to read. You wouldn’t tell lies to your own wife. Don’t tell them to mine.”

Yes, Indians did not want to hear the lame logic BCCI came up with in the court. Instead, if it could arrange, it should have offered that treated water to drought affected people who are not getting water even for bathing and other daily usage. BCCI should have realized the damage done so far with its stand in the issue and it could have been a good point for reconciliation for the deteriorating brand value of IPL.

Ogilvy says, “You have to decide what ‘image’ you want for your brand. Image means personality. Products, like people, have personalities, and they can make or break them in the market place.

Yes, it was a chance for BCCI to hold the ship together for the brand IPL, to give it a character, a personality. It was an opportunity for BCCI for an image makeover of IPL. BCCI’s arrogance started the row but a timely realization and thus a social intervention could have put BCCI on the way to commence on necessary rectifications for the brand IPL.

But BCCI chose to take the other way – fuelled by its arrogance – and commercial concerns – even if it means a harsh reproach by the Bombay High Court and angry responses by activists, farmer leaders, drought-affected people and people across the country.

And now, if the court passes an order that compels BCCI to shift the games out of Maharashtra, it will be a triple whammy, something that could well be the final undoing for the brand IPL.

Already, the Supreme Court is hearing the case on BCCI reforms and is sure to pass some strict measures to curb corruption and nepotism in the organization (the measures which BCCI is opposing). An adverse order by the Bombay High Court would force BCCI to discipline itself to take Maharashtra IPL matches out that would certainly send a bad message. And it would cause further damage to the already jeopardized brand IPL. BCCI would certainly lose its face to face people of the country after this IPL fiasco unless some fundamental reforms that can convince people take places in the organization.

In an age of absolute tele-density and thus information availability and social media access, it is hard to fool people for long – be it people from the country’s drought-affected areas – or people in general – people whom BCCI sees as its consumers – who consume the television broadcasts of matches – or those who buy tickets for a stadium experience. Ogilvy reminds, “The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife.”

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

TRAIN TO LATUR

(OR THE ‘WATER TRAIN’ TO LATUR)

It is not the first time and whenever it happens, it tells the gravity of the problem – here in Marathwada this time, facing the worst ever drought in its written history – and Maharashtra facing the worst ever drought in the last 100 years. And Maharashtra has another farm suicide capital – Vidarbha – to make the matters worse.

Together, Marathwada and Vidarbha share the maximum burden of farmers’ suicides in the country – with Maharashtra being the second most dependent state on agriculture after Uttar Pradesh – but the stark irony is – and has been – Uttar Pradesh, though has its share of farm suicides, comes lower in the list of annual data on farmers’ suicides due to agrarian crisis in the country – while at the same time, Maharashtra’s industrial advancement is far better than Uttar Pradesh’s.

This ‘agriculture dependence and industrial progress’ correlation explains partly why Maharashtra sees far higher number of farm suicides than Uttar Pradesh – it’s basically about the mindset that is shaped by the socio-political milieu – that raises expectation levels – from self, from society, and from polity – and makes facing advertise difficult.

It doesn’t mean Uttar Pradesh is doing any better. It is, in fact, far worse than Maharashtra, because the socio-political milieu here has reduced people to mere numbers who don’t matter at all, even for themselves. They probably don’t face the set of problems that a Maharashtra farmer faces because they cannot afford even those problems.

Marathwada’s drought is in its fourth consecutive year and Latur is the worst hit district. The 600 odd water tankers, including the private ones, around 400, have failed to help around 2.5 million people of this district (Census 2011) with an important (and busy) railway station that is said to be gateway of the cultural region of Marathwada. The state water supply comes here once in a week or ten days.

Conditions here are so worrying that Latur has become synonymous with Maharashtra’s drought as Kalahandi had become with Odisha’s hunger problem. And to compound the problem, Latur is not alone – with severe weather condition prevailing in Beed, Osmanabad, Prabhani and many other districts.

After failing to ensure water supply through water tankers and water rationing (including imposing riot control measures like the Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code – against any ‘unlawful assembly’ to queue up for the scarce water), an age-old problem of India due to poor water management practices and flawed agricultural policies (Maharashtra’s water guzzling sugarcane factories in a drought prone belt), the Maharashtra government has now come up with this idea – of supplying water through trains – the ‘water trains’.

And it is not the first time.

In fact, if we go back, we can find examples as early as 1986 when Gujarat used the ‘water trains’ to fetch water to a crisis hit Rajkot. In recent history, these ‘water trains’ have been a recurring addition to the Indian Railways fleet in Gujarat and Rajasthan. I am certain if we look for more, we will come across many more examples. A point to be mentioned here is that a ‘water train’ concept to bring water to drought hit California from the Pacific was criticised in America due to its high cost structure.

Certainly, it will not be that expensive in India. In fact, Latur has been assigned two ‘water trains’ – each with 50 tank wagons. Each tank wagon has a filling capacity of 54,000 litres. Railways will fill 50,000 litres in each wagon. That means each ‘Latur water train’ will carry 25,00,000 litres to the parched souls and land of Latur.

The first ‘water train’ will reach Latur in few hours (as reported). The second will start its journey on April 15 from the Kota workshop in Rajasthan from where the first one left on April 8. Maharashtra has miserably failed to address its water distribution anomalies in the state. Hope this ‘water train’ has a different fate for people of Latur who need around a million litres water a day.

‘The water trains’, with their continued existence, are yet another testimony on how the state has failed to bring the fundamental changes to uplift people in the world second most populous nation with millions of poor and illiterate who survive on agriculture.

But here, the train to Latur, though a reminder of state’s apathy, inefficiency and failure, carries hope for dried up thoughts. Let’s see the hope prevails.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

THE IPL DROUGHT

Okay, at the face of it, let’s accept that if at all there is any rush of sentiments left for cricket, it for the national level matches, and certainly not for the club tournaments like IPL.

IPL, a highly successful brand name, has been highly controversial too – with its fair share of fixing and betting controversies and ‘spill over’ dozes of glamour and entertainment. While sitting in a stadium during an IPL game, what you come across is deafening music and silly commentary that simply dilutes the thrill of cricket.

Anyway, I am not going to look into highs and lows of IPL here.

It is about the ‘IPL drought’ controversy here – IPL drought because by continued insistence on holding the IPL matches in Maharashtra (20 in all – at Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur grounds) – and thus wasting some 60 to 65 lakh litres of water water (some estimates say 70 lakh) – when the Maharashtra state government is failing to ensure even an abysmally low supply of 20 litres a day to the families in the drought affected districts – contributing thus to the misery of people already afflicted with the one of the worst drought seasons the state is witnessing – BCCI, the body governing cricket in India, is earning a bad name.

Do a simple calculation to see if it can be an eye opener for you.

The Maharashtra government has decided to supply 20 litres of water every day to each household in Latur, one of the worst drought-affected districts of the Marathwada region of Maharashtra that is facing the worst drought in 100 years. But the problem is, even this supply is so erratic, once in a week or 10 days.

The 65 lakh litres of water used (wasted) by the IPL management to keep the cricket pitches up and ready for the 20 IPL games to be played in Maharashtra can supply 20 litres water to 325,000 families. To say, to argue, it is nothing, not even a day’s water supply to all families in a district like Latur with around 2.5 million people.

But, there is this big ‘but’ – with the social horror spreading in Maharashtra with thousands of farm suicides – and when the Maharashtra State Water Policy puts usage of water of purposes like IPL last in its priority list.

When some 2500 water tankers are needed in the region, the government can provide barely 100-200. The rest are privately operated. The region’s water reservoirs have water level below 5% – somewhere it is as low as 1%. There is no water for sowing. People are not able to take bath for days. Basic water needs like sanitation have become a luxury.

People are dying, they are committing suicide. According to a data-set, Maharashtra saw over 3200 farm suicides last year, while Taliban killed 3400 in the same period.

When seen in the context of all these, this use (or misuse) 65 lakh litres of water, that the BCCI says is not potable and therefore can be wasted, becomes a criminal offence.

Branding is all about strengthening your symbolic perception in people’s psyche and it happens with variety of factors – communication, action and obligation – and BCCI is failing here on all these three parameters. Its persistence on holding the Maharashtra leg of the IPL matches will associate a socially evil tag to IPL – the worst drought in Maharashtra’s history. So far, every communication coming from the BCCI camps and cricketers have only deepened the feeling that BCCI has no obligation towards the people of this country even if it claims to be the custodian of a people’s game.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

LOOMING DROUGHT: WHEN COURTS REMIND GOVERNMENT AND PEOPLE OF THEIR DUTIES

When a country’s top courts remind its citizens of their duty, of their social obligations, it is a humiliating development for its politicians, for its bureaucracy, for its opinion leaders, and for its people.

Something that the Supreme Court of India and the Bombay High Court did today!

Something, that again tells us that how fundamentally flawed we are in working for the well-being of a democracy’s founding entity – every individual life – even if we form a functional democracy!

The courts reminded us of our obligations towards our brothers and sisters in yet another ‘looming-drought’ year – with thousands of farm suicides!

What the Supreme Court observed should set the state machinery in motion to tackle the drought problem without delay – only if it happens so! It said (as reported by media outlets), “We should realise that there is problem. Nine states and now Rajasthan have declared drought. It is difficult to believe that there is no drought in Bundelkhand and Marathwada”.

The Supreme Court took on the government for not releasing MNREGA funds that has shrunk the MNREGA workdays to 48 from 100. It gave the government some lessons on timing its priorities when it said, “Relief has to be given immediately and not after one year. Temperature is soaring at 45 degree Celsius, there is no drinking water, nothing is there. You have to do something and provide relief on time”.

The top court said, “If you are not releasing the funds, then no one will like to work. States will say they have no funds, so they can’t pay anyone for MGNREGA work. No state will make any commitment to the people”.

Yes, commitment to the people – the basic entity that drives our Constitution – and therefore should always be a priority for our political class!

The country is staring at a drought like situation with areas like Bundelkhand, Marathwada and Vidarbha and states like Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra are already facing severe drought conditions, leading to farm suicides and internal migration.

As the SC says, there is this grave concern already in 10 states while the activists say more states are precarious and are going to fall.

While the top court reminded the polity and bureaucracy of its duty, another higher court, the Bombay Court, came down heavily on the so-called elite who act like parasites on multitudes of ‘have-nots’ in the country.

In a country, that is still majority quality illiterate, malnourished and poor, as per the universal norms, and is facing acute water shortage – that is causing thousands of farmers to commit suicide, especially in Maharashtra in the last one year – wasting water there, lakhs of liters, is a crime, an obscenity – that can never be forgiven.

We do small things – like we observe Earth Hours, ration our air-conditioner usage, shut down markets to deal with electricity crisis, we run no-honking campaigns or care-free days, or run innumerous advertisements on judicial use of ‘scarce’ resources. We do accommodate things like handling milk shortage in summers by bringing changes in our daily routines.

If these small things become so important for us as a society that we act like in unison, from the government machinery to the citizenry to the media outlets, then shouldn’t we be ashamed and feel outraged that India has failed miserably in handling farmers’ suicides in the country – continued unabated for decades.

Then why can’t we act sensitively! They why can’t we sensitize people?

Then why can’t we do away with the lure of organizing some cricket matches in Maharashtra that would waste some 60 lakh litres of water, as the court was informed today – when people don’t have water even for basic needs like sanitation and cleaning.

How can we sleep at the end of the day after watching an IPL match that has wasted some 60,000 litres of water when a family in Latur gets just 2 litres of drinking water supply a week?

How can we feel peaceful if people are forced to engage in rioting for their daily supply of water – a supply that doesn’t come ‘daily’?

The Bombay High Court so rightly reprimanded the BCCI, “How can you waste water like this? Are people more important or IPL? How can you be so careless? This is criminal wastage. You know the situation in Maharashtra. Only if water supply to BCCI is cut will you understand.”

Isn’t it time to do the imperative as the High Court observed, “Ideally, you should shift the IPL matches to some other State where water is in abundance”.

Certainly, there is nothing like ‘Ek India Happy Wala’ – as the IPL promo says – if BCCI insists on holding the IPL matches in Maharashtra even after this hostile observation by the Bombay High Court.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/