Millennium Post

Dreary drought

Maharashtra reels under the scorching sun with well-known adversity that has repeatedly featured on the face of the earth – drought. Droughts have been a seasonal affair for this part of the Deccan region. This happens to be the sixth consecutive year that parts of Maharashtra have been facing severe drought situation and discounting the adversity from preceding numbers, six long years seem adequate time to prepare for droughts. Witnessing Odisha's commitment and resilience to withstand cyclones and safeguard lives, Maharashtra and Karnataka are very much capable of setting up drought redressal systems and action plans in cases of exigency. The disaster management guidelines, to begin with, are apt for this sort of situation which definitely demands attention amidst the polling season. Notwithstanding the fact that Centre and state exchequers will be accessed towards remedial actions but sustenance of crops, animals and farmers is defeated in the face of annual occurrence. The fact that only 16 per cent water reserve is left in the dams in proximity stresses on lackadaisical approach despite imminent adversity. If droughts have been occurring in the parts of both the states forming a pattern which enables to predict future droughts then a lack of redressal system to tend to such calamities is simply a travesty of governance. Requesting whatever quantity of water from neighbouring states, scooping reserves and anticipating financial assistance from the Centre are all haphazard measures usually in place when preemptive measures have effectively either not taken up or failed. The Centre has released 4,562 crores while the state government has allocated 4,300 crores making a total of 8,862 crores to combat the unprecedented drought situation which has regions such as Marathwada, Yavatmal, Nagaon, Aurangabad, Amravati, and Nashik among others in its grasp. Scores of fishes floating lifeless atop the Godavari spotted by locals in Nagaon village does not augur well for the area. While the Centre and state progress to tend to this adversity is welcoming, it hardly makes any difference to locals who have been witnessing droughts for years and remain deprived of alternatives to counter the natural calamity with remedial measures initiated by state authorities being the only hope. Contemporary times have equipped us to predict rainfall and be aware of impending calamities like a drought but state government's enthusiasm in anticipating and implementing exigency measures has remained an area of concern. It has to be understood that measures also take time to take full effect and not happen overnight. Tankers to water-deprived areas is an expected step to address the severe drought problem but even that will have to be on time and well-coordinated from before. Waking up to droughts and then drafting action plans, consulting and requesting neighbouring states and the Centre for help will delay the remedial measures and the most direct impact would be loss of life – human, animal, fishes – apart from the agricultural setback. Present numbers denote that 4,331 villages and 9,470 hamlets are being supplied water through 5,493 tankers. Arrangements made by the Maharashtra government draw a proactive picture to combat drought but this 2019 severe drought cuts a sorry figure for CM Devendra Fadnavis who had claimed to make Maharashtra drought-free by 2019. And, words of politicos rarely reverberate in the face of adversity because tending to a life-threatening crisis is more important than pulling up authorities for lack of emergency system and audacious promises. The promise was flawed since droughts are nature induced adversities which can be controlled by humans but not overcome entirely. Drought-resistant should be a better aim and efforts should be made to that effort. Hindsight tells a lot about the adversity and it helps us learn from our flaws. It urges us to improvise and reduce damage. It also aids us in predicting the grave consequences which right now parts of Maharashtra and Karnataka imminently face. Interestingly, Bombay High Court has pulled the Maharashtra government for not appearing in court over the prevailing severe drought situation. A petition which was filed two and a half years ago has come to haunt the state government where the petitioner alleges that the state government has not done much to provide relief. He also alleges that the absence of the state government lawyer, in this case, points to the government's tactic to sit out the drought period till rainfalls hit the area so that damage is reduced and the situation is not as grave as it currently is. Agrarian distress has already been highlighted as a severe issue in the state and it can only be hoped that it was well reflected in the general election polling which has concluded in Maharashtra. While the court now will pass an order on May 20 irrespective of government's presence for the matter, the state government hurriedly pursues to minimise damage and increase the ambit and outreach of its relief measures. Rainfalls will provide relief but what is the point of progress if the damage inflicted resembles primitive situations.

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