Rain like all of Nature’s bounties is free; but when it doesn’t rain as in a DROUGHT, it costs pots of money and perhaps that is why “Everybody Loves a Good Drought” as P Sainath would have us believe. I suppose the reverse is equally true when it doesn’t stop raining and we have to keep raising the ‘hems’ of our saris or ‘veshties’ (what Thiru Chidambaram wears) till we can raise them no more, like what happened in Chennai last December. Only ‘Amma’ remained high and dry.
Money gets splurged the way we never use water (expect on IPL pitches of course or a one off helipad in Maharashtra). That I suppose makes cricket fans and everybody else happy? Indiscreet ministerial Selfies with a rapidly evaporating water body in the background, notwithstanding.
As usual, the politicians have the lion’s share of the DROUGHT cake. When goodies are up for grabs, the tendency of those at the table is to use both hands and quickly. As it happens, in this gluttonous melee there is plenty of ‘trickle down’, not like the Capitalist-Socialist trickle-down that evaporates before it hits the down and out, but this one has something in it to wet everybody; well, almost, except perhaps our humungous, ‘cul-de-sac-ed’, thirsty bovine population. Thanks to Climate Change and other friendly extreme weather events, droughts have become a recurrent ‘blessing’ and those who can use both foresight and hindsight simultaneously (like our suicide prone farmers), could actually be prospecting for drought ridden fields to buy or usurp from debt-trapped but wanting-to-live farmers.
Though, not all farmers have refused to see ‘golden opportunities’ in droughts that keep knocking, at least twice a year, in the more outwardly ‘mobile’ districts of the country. Those with good social networking especially with bank managers and BDOs follow the IMD predictions more faithfully than smart Stock Exchange investors do with their shares. They work out pretty well when to take ‘never -to-be-paid-back’ loans, invest the money in sound ventures (preferably off-shore) and reappear when stubborn governments finally decide to tackle agrarian ‘crises’. Of course strong political connections, like for everything else, are a big boon to avail of distress loans and their subsequent restructuring as write-offs.
The panchayat pradhans and other elected businessmen have diversified into making the most of a good drought and that too, of all things, with WATER. This is not the mafia steered tanker trade that one sees in Delhi, but a well thought out, planned and peaceful investment in the supply of water to thirsty – land and people. They haven’t gotten to buying water wagons, a la Latur, as yet but as the Sun shines there is much hay to be made with water. Bringing the ‘Watering Hole’ to the horse; a great opportunity to open up for further NRI-FDI and what with drought stricken Gujarat being so investor friendly!
Surprisingly, the much reviled MNREGA with its attendant / intended ‘leaks’ (not of water though), becomes an unexpected benefactor of drought managers and drought ‘proofers’ with major stakes in its growing outlays. Sonia Gandhi and her erstwhile NAC must be gloating. The BJP Government trying ever so hard to co-opt the disliked scheme with the zeal it has shown to pull off a ‘Ghar Wapsi’ on the late Shri Ambedkar! No Drought of Action here!
As always, time is short. Two more months for the Sun to bake more Drought cake! Rumblings of dire water scarcity are echoing off the high hillsides too, as enterprising and unemployed sons of the ‘Connected’ scramble to pocket generous contracts to supply water. The Hospitality industry as usual is first off the block and has already cornered most of the water tankers to ensure that their flushes keep flushing. Tourists visiting hill stations to cool off may well be advised to carry their own buckets and bottles to use at the rare road side streams or Springs that might still have some water; and wash before they enter town to check into a hotel. Luckily, for the hotel lobby there is no AAP government here to ban surge pricing for water in the looming aridity ahead.
Good times though are sadly, usually followed by bad days. With IMD playing the spoil sport predicting good Monsoons ahead, the many ‘sources’ of drought relief and release could well see a drying up. The redoubtable Mr Power and his water guzzling sugarcane cabal keenly checking out the trade-offs between dry and wet times. The drought hit of Marathwada, are ironically selling sugarcane juice on the streets of Pune and Mumbai to quench their thirst for a livelihood.
But Mumbai at least is known to flood profitably every monsoon. So, all has not really ‘dried’ up, not the way it has in Bihar.
Nodnat – is a pen name that the writer with deep knowledge of Himalayan flora and fauna and a keen environmentalist has adopted. He hails from Kotgarh, in Shimla Hills and retired as Principal Chief Conservator of Forests from Himachal Pradesh forest department.