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No proof required: Fadnavis everywhere, and no water to drink

The IPL water controversy proves that common sense is least common, especially in the ‘moral’ space occupied by TV anchors and politicians

Written by Surjit S Bhalla |
Updated: April 9, 2016 9:49:54 am
ipl, ipl 2016, ipl 2016 schedule, ipl matches in maharashtra, maharashtra, maharashtra drought, drought crisis maharastra, ipl vs maharastra drought, marathwada drought, devendra fadnavis, india news, sports news, ipls news, maharashtra news, latest news If policymakers were serious about alleviating water shortages for the poor, they would first have to blame themselves for the stupidity, if not depravity, of the policies they have pursued.

“People are dying — and you want to maintain cricket pitches,” asked an over-excited TV anchor. But not as morally excited as the learned justices of the Bombay High Court who opined, as quoted in the media, “that this entire thing of the utilisation of water for IPL matches needs to be thought over”. The court also apparently asked the BCCI counsel whether “cricket matches were more important than people or preserving water”. An important question.

Watch Video: Discussing The IPL Water Controversy

The first response to this question, especially by immoral thinking economists as well as those with a modicum of common sense, is to ask a related question — what alternative use is there for water, and what is its price? In the desert, water is worth a lot; and it is also worth a considerable amount in drought-prone areas. An average person consumes 150 litres of water per day or 54,000 litres per year. Assume that a sixth of the population of Maharashtra (around 20 million) has no access to any water for half a year — that is, Maharashtra needs to supply (transport) to the drought areas 540 billion litres of water. The IPL matches in Maharashtra are estimated to use six million litres of water for watering the grounds. But that is an estimate of a corrupt capitalist (and therefore, dishonest) BCCI — so let us double the stated amount. So the honourable justices, and the oh-so-moral NGO Loksatta Movement that brought the PIL against IPL, and our learned TV tripping (as in TRP) anchors believe that saving .002 per cent of water will alleviate the water misery of 20 million people. It is not for nothing that my column is called “No Proof Required” — moving the IPL will only provide water for 400 people for half a year.

The Financial Express editorial, “IPL vs Sugarcane” (April 8) illustrates the utter stupidity of the position that fewer cricket matches in Maharashtra will “solve” the water shortage problem. If policymakers were serious about alleviating water shortages for the poor, they would first have to blame themselves for the stupidity, if not depravity, of the policies they have pursued. In particular, look at the water-guzzling sugarcane crop. Maharashtra encourages the growing of sugarcane: In 2014-15, the estimated sugar output from Maharashtra was 10 billion kgs. Each kg of sugar uses 2,000 litres of water. In other words, the total water used for sugarcane cropping in the state was 20 trillion litres. You do the math. As the FE editorial hints, the savings from not having the IPL matches are not even a minuscule fraction of the water used by the sugarcane growers in Maharashtra. By creating a moral song and dance about the IPL, the immoral elite only proves to the world that it is intellectually dead.

Neither drought nor poverty is new to Maharashtra. First and foremost, the responsibility of delivering the much-needed water to all its citizens (and not just the wealthy) lies with the state administration. What was the BJP in Maharashtra, in particular Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, doing for the past two years? Of course, doing nothing except banning beef and moralising about the need to say “Bharat Mata ki Jai” everywhere. What could have Fadnavis done? And, given that he has not done it, what can he do now? Basic water needs of humans (150 litres a day) can easily be transported to the drought-hit areas on a daily basis and expenses paid from all the taxes collected by the state. Then what is the problem? And why hasn’t this solution been offered, and used as yet?

The (non) agricultural policy of the Centre has distorted the food market for decades. The Punjab economy is in a mess because of too much rice production in the state. The Maharashtra economy is in a mess because of the production of too much sugarcane. According to the counsel for the trendsetting Loksatta Movement, the BCCI and the IPL “have the means and resources” to shift matches out of Maharashtra but the state government does not have the means, and/or the political desire, to transport water to its poor drought-hit citizens?

The IPL-versus-water controversy raises a lot of non-sequitur issues, especially the contention that morality has anything to do with it. The need of the hour is to conserve water, and herewith some people who should be honoured for suggesting (moral) rules for water conservation. The top prize goes to Moralist # 1, Nitish Kumar, the chief minister of Bihar, who has recently banned the sale and consumption of all alcohol (except foreign-made liquor) in Bihar. Note how far-sighted and water-saving this policy is. No beer will be sold, so less toilet water needed for flushing beer-induced piss.

Moralist # 2 award goes to the ever- thoughtful and far-sighted Pahlaj Nihalani, the man in charge of the Central Board of Film Certification of India. Sensitive to the IPL-versus-drought conflict, he recently gave a U/A rating to The Jungle Book, a remake of a children’s film. The U/A rating means that children below the age of 12 have to be accompanied by an adult. His reason for the U/A rating (and I am not making this up) was that the 3D effects were too scary for children sitting alone. Note how very subtly Nihalani is helping the water cause. Fewer children screaming means less water is needed to calm them down afterwards, and this saved water can be directed to the Maharashtra farmers via the BCCI headquarters and the Bombay High Court, both of which are located in Mumbai.

Herewith are some other Nitish-Nihalani (NN, which can also stand for No and No) type sensible policies to help lessen the need for water, and help farmers and ordinary people in the drought-hit areas of Maharashtra (and elsewhere):

Recommended Policy # 1: Stop asking people to say “Bharat Mata ki Jai”. Think about it — 500 million people not saying “Bharat Mata ki Jai” on a daily basis will save enough water, through reduced thirst, to flood Latur.

Recommended Policy # 2 (which is not only recommended but practised in Fadnavis-land): Maharashtrians were asked to have a muted Holi celebration to save water. Of course, if Holi were not a Hindu festival, Holi would have been banned.

Recommended Policy # 3: Fadnavis could help the poor citizens of his state, and improve governance if he removed the ban on the slaughter of old cows (above 16 years of age). Water consumption will go down. Although, as a Supreme Court (2005) judgment noted, doing so would mean that manure production will also go down — this was the primary reason why the honourable court banned the killing of all cows.

Some questions remain: Why did the honourable court not throw out the morally juvenile petition of Loksatta? And why the argument that the IPL should pay for drought relief? What sense does that make? It is as sensible as placing an environmental tax on the purchase of cricket bats because trees have been felled. Paraphrasing Peter, Paul and Mary: Where has commonsense gone, and when will they ever learn?

 

The writer is contributing editor, ‘The Indian Express’, and senior India analyst, The Observatory Group, a New York-based macro policy advisory group

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