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When a village decides to wash roads with water during drought, because the Chief Minister is to visit.

Yavatmal: Roads in drought hit Yavatmal district were washed with water because the Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis was going to visit! Thousands of liters of water was wasted in order to do this.

The Chief Minister was to visit Sarul village in Babhulgaon taluka. The whole village was decorated in preparation for his arrival. The village gram panchayat office, school and dispensary were decorated. However the public works department decided to wash the road with drinking water.

In many villages in drought struck Yavatmal, it is a struggle to find drinking water. In such a situation, they wasted water by pouring it on the roads using tankers - not once, but four times!

 

Translated from report in Marathi on ABP Majha

Not sure how to do this, given that this is a data free hatchet job by Manu Joseph. So it isn't like he is claiming that his absurd claims are backed by data to begin with. Still, because I'm irritated enough, doing a limited take down of yet another attempt to trivialize the gravity and causes of farmer suicides with the Parliament in session (during or just before Parliament sessions is the season for hatchet jobs on farmers - probably to improve acceptance for anti-farmer policies coming up?).

All quotes from Manu Joseph's fantasy piece on farmer suicides in the Hindustan Times.

If an active cricket ground exists, it would be watered on most days, or it would die. So why this fuss before the tournament? Also, the calls for the cancellation of matches are comical for a simple reason — it is on the days of the matches that the grounds are not heavily watered.

Frankly, I agree with Manu Joseph that there are bigger problems than cricket in the face of drought. For example, the state allocation of water prioritizing industry over domestic consumption in blatant disregard for law or rights and a court limits (not cuts off, mind you) water to breweries long after people have spent months making careers out of seeking water to survive. However, the idea that a cricket ground consumes less water when there is a match is ignorance of the highest order, because he seems to think that facilities for a crowd of spectators and worse, media and teams camping out (who in our VIP culture won't be assigned a couple of buckets a day) don't consume water and all the water in a cricketing event is actually only the water poured on a lawn.

At this point, Manu Joseph dismisses the first veteran of his piece. Sunil Gavaskar.

Sunil Gavaskar, whose relationship with the BCCI, it is reported, has collapsed and whose lucrative contract with the board may end, wrote in his column, “The issue of drought is one such where many lives are at stake.” (True). “I am no expert on ground and pitch preparation…” (True) “…

What Manu Joseph does not realize is that Manu Joseph is no expert on ground and pitch preparation either and does not bother with any disclaimers about his lack of knowledge. Probably because it would involve not writing this absurd piece to begin with. Gavaskar may not be an expert on ground and pitch preparation, but Gavaskar knows cricketing events and probably realizes they are not as water free as Manu Joseph's piece is fact free.

This is a mystifying exaggeration — the suggestion that if matches are held in three cricket grounds in Maharahstra the lives of farmers would be at risk. But it is a popular view.

Absolutely no explanation for why Manu Joseph calls this an exaggeration. No mention of available water that people are ignoring and dying as a hobby. No mention of how much difference in water consumption there would actually be and what constitutes exaggerated. Absolutely no evidence anywhere that Manu Joseph has been to drought hit areas, studied so much as what drought means to reach his expert opinion. Manu Joseph has water in his tap and people are making too much of a fuss. And we actually have newspapers giving space to this entitled garbage. An interesting question of how editorial decisions happen in corporate media. Forget the stand taken by an article, but do newspapers no longer require claims to be backed by evidence?

It is not a popular view, BTW. Most people hate it. 60 kilometers from the heart of Bombay, I get half an hour of water - non-potable - a day. I earn enough to make ends meet and have the luxury  of home delivery for drinking water. Men, women, kids from our oh-so-posh looking society are routinely found at a water filtration gig round the corner, filling 10 liter cans for 3 rupees and ferrying the water home. I am nowhere near the officially drought hit regions of Maharashtra, where taps have run dry right after the monsoon and people have been ferrying water for MONTHS already. Perhaps Manu Joseph would like to ferry water for a week in an air conditioned car before calling these concerns exaggerated or merely popular opinion (as opposed to his fact free expert opinion, I suppose).

Perhaps the fact that many of the deaths from drought are from drowning may prove Manu Joseph's point that there is plenty of water and people are making a fuss? There are kids drowning in the silt in water reservoirs. Falling into wells. Kids who aren't in school to begin with, because they are needed to find and bring water home, right along with the adults. How many of these kids will need to search harder, walk farther? How many adults will die of heat stroke and heart attacks as the search for water makes them wander more in temperatures regularly over 40 degrees? There is already risk of water riots as desperation grows. How many of the quests for water will be made longer with tankers supplying water to desperate localities moved to lucrative providing for cricketing events? [link added because hours after I write this, an expose shows how water for the distressed gets sold to whoever can pay for it]

There is much veneration of farmers in India by those who are not farmers. These are the very people whose greatest fortune was that their grandfathers or fathers ejected their progeny from the agrarian economy.

There is also much dismissal of the plight of farmers in India by those who are not farmers. These are the very people whose greatest fortune is to be so comfortable in life as to see no difference in resources spent on entertainment and food. A lot of these overnight experts are those who find their agricultural know-how based on specific facts and arguments cherry picked and promoted by industries who would prefer to marginalize farmers. Who lack any basic knowledge on the subject to know when they are being fed handpicked bullshit or how they can verify it. Whose world view is so limited to their personal experience that they have little but contempt for anyone wanting attention or sacrifices or even inconvenience for problems that they don't face.

[Ignoring the exhibition of incompetence on diet except for one line, because it will derail the main track of this piece here. If you are interested, comment away and I'll do a separate piece on this other glorious piece of logic.]

The human body does not require rice and wheat. In fact it does very well without grain.

I challenge Manu Joseph to provide details of one meal that someone under our poverty line could afford that does not involve grains or meat (asked to give up just before this quote). Because dear friend, if rural India could afford a diet of nuts, they wouldn't be desperately running after water tankers, they'd order home delivery like you and me. And if you think people can survive without grains or meat or nuts - wait.... lemme guess. you're talking of a desk jockey lifestyle like yours without much need for energy? Cabbage your way out of that paunch? BTW, vegetable growing needs more water 🙁 Ask me. I have 3 balcony gardens for food and watering in summer is a pain. The grasses grow much easier than these lush beauties (I assume you know grains grow on grasses).

There is more, but I'm bored now. Ending with this masterpiece of propaganda (the art of repeating a falsehood till it starts sounding true)

Let me repeat an assertion this column made earlier while arguing that farmer suicides are primarily a depression story where poverty only plays a role:

“In a country where most people can be termed ‘farmers’, it is not anomalous that most people who kill themselves would be ‘farmers’. In fact, what is anomalous is that a huge majority of farmers who commit suicide are male. If both official and activist statistics are considered, it would appear that women in impoverished farming communities are among the least likely Indians to commit suicide. Activists who ascribe social, economic and political reasons for suicides would never be able to explain why.’ In most nations of the world, including India, the number of men who commit suicide is several times more than the number of women. this pattern is reflected in the gender ratio of ‘farmer suicides’.

Not just activists, any sane person can't get this logic. That depression is the cause of suicide, but not loans or policies and political maliciousness. I mean, why would you be depressed if your months of physical labour resulted in loss? Why would you be depressed if you couldn't repay loans? Why would you want policies to cover your risks? This logic can only come from someone living in a "normal" where hardwork is not necessary to survive, a good way of dealing with loans you don't repay is pulling strings to get them restructured and bailouts are necessary to save jobs, so not like you want any favors.

No matter how many times you repeat it, fact is, most people in India are not farmers. This bogus statistic is based on some expert claim made by another columnist on economics who found his agricultural gene just before a Parliamentary session with a GM food decision coming up and has been copied by every overnight agricultural columnist whose sole agricultural writings come when policy decisions are up for grabs and have never spoken to the family of a farmer who committed suicide or, for that matter, laid feet on agricultural soil for their journalism. Not seen a single person who actually has knowledge of the subject ever buy this nonsense.

The reason for that is that the IDIOT interpreted 54% of Indian population being sustained by the agricultural SECTOR (this includes everything from distributors of pesticides to tractor mechanics and wholesalers of grain) as farmers. Whereas, the fact is that the farmer suicide problem is largely between small and marginalized farmers, whom we are losing rapidly, even as the number of suicides increases in a shrinking population. But this bogus argument remains popular among subsequent idiots who don't verify the bullshit they are fed with when they have propaganda to peddle. You are not the first, and you will not be the last. The activist types don't give a fuck, but bogus data pisses me off, so I suppose I must call this out every time I see it.

Disclosure: Not commenting on the comment about P. Sainath because conflict of interest. I am happy to share that since yesterday, I am on the payroll of the People's Archive of Rural India founded by Sainath, which sadly now will seem like I am defending him in situations like these, when it would just be objecting to rubbish before.

Note: I normally reference and provide data for my posts, but I believe a fact free article at least requires a rebuttal where you have to do the hard work yourself to verify things I say and discover a hundred more horrors I didn't say.

Nagpur: A severe drought gripping many parts of Maharashtra did not deter spiritual leader Asaram Bapu from celebrating a pre-Holi function and wasting many litres of water here Sunday, said a social group. Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (ANS) condemned Asaram Bapu’s alleged Goli play and staged a protest. “A person [...]

Hydrological drought in Maharashtra has decimated all but the most drought resistant plants and .... sugarcane. Low rainfall in the Marathwada region where agriculture is largely rainfed, brings immediate drought conditions.

As Alertnet reports the story of Anil Joshi, who pioneered innovation in green technology for the humble Gharat (water wheel) that transformed energy production. The gharat powers a flour mill by day, and generates electricity by night. These turbines produce a whopping 264 megawatts of electricity per hour in Jammu And Kashmir, Uttaranchal and Himachal Pradesh.

"Development" has led to Maharashtra drought with widespread physical water scarcity. Rampant industries vie with fresh water intensive cash crops that sideline food production in a desperate race into oblivion. 40% of Maharashtra suffers from hydrological drought, and Maharashtra's Water Policy gives priority to non-agricultural uses of fresh water and sets the stage for rural indebtedness. Additionally, 6% of cultivated area producing sugarcane takes up most of the fresh water in the irrigation systems. Political clout has led to violations in equitable water management result in agricultural irrigation systems falling short of water not receiving hoarded water upstream. The crunch is directly on rural India.

Jalna has farmers cutting down healthy sweet lime trees to conserve water for a smaller number to survive the water scarcity. Buldhana gets water once a month and no more quantity than a bucket and half per person per day. Women are walking for hours in search of water, people are spending hundreds of rupees transporting water, while others are spending thousands on booking private tankers. Aurangabad is supplying water with 1,153 tankers to 931 villages and 506 wadis and 2,475 wells have been acquired to source fresh water.

There are still more thermal power plants and water intensive industries planned in a fossil fuels orgy of "development" in a region where water is scanty, while water conservation remains a distant dream. Coal burning power plants are the in thing and there is little effort to harness alternative energy. According to an excellent report in Down To Earth, 140 thermal power plants with a collective capacity of 55,000 MW have been planned for the region. 27 new plants are proposed along the Wardha river basin according to Yogiraj Doodhpachare, an environment scientist at Janata Mahavidyalaya in Chandrapur. Thermal power plants in Vidarbha have received  2,049 million cubic meter (mcm) from agricultural irrigation systems in the region contributing to physical water scarcity for agriculture.

Sharad Pawar has announced Rs.1000 crore for converting all sugarcane farming to drip irrigation systems, which may not be adequate to make the  region water sufficient. In contrast, a method of organic farming using mulch in the irrigation canal, that needs virtually no investment and drastically reduces need for water as well as other inputs is being ignored. Swimming pools in five star resorts, water parks or even distilleries in the state continue to operate.

Itron claims that metering Mumbai's water supply has helped the Municipal corporation to find and fix leaks - which would sound like a great thing, except Itron Chief Executive Officer Philip Mezey said in an interview “If you’re able to meter the product and charge a fair price for it, a very low price but a fair price, it gives the utility enough return on their investment that they can develop more lines and capacity.” Itron is now installing or has contracts to install such meters in Navi Mumbai, New Delhi and Bangalore. Remember the article on Privatizing water?

Badly maintained sewage channels are choked and overflowing and have led to contaminated drinking water in Ganeshnagar, Mangalnagar, Belthikanagar, Gujarnagar, Jai Bhavaninagar and Duttnagar in Thergaon in Pune. So carelessness and lack of adequate equipment to maintain an is yet another toll on water.In Goa, leakage of pumping mains at the Opa water treatment plant, led to restricted water supply on March 17, to Ponda taluka and part of Tiswadi taluka, including all industrial establishments.

In other news, the Delhi Jal Board forged on relentlessly with its wish to privatize. It seems the guys who laid the pipes cannot control leakage, and it will take new and efficient guys who couldn't dream of creating a project of such magnitude to fix it. Having launched three projects as Private Public Partnerships in Delhi, there is now a conference on water privatization. In typical sarkari fashion, all criticism is welcome as long as the greed is not prevented.

India is a signatory to the UN Resolution of 2010, which recognizes 'Right to Water as a Human Right'. India also passed a National Water Policy in 2012 that encourage the role of private companies and minimize the role of government in supplying water. What happens when the poor
"water users" are unable to pay bills on time is left to our imaginations.

2

Dear Mr Chavan,

I am not going to talk about irrigation projects and such things that you already have practiced replying. Let us look at what is happening.

Vidarbha always seems to be reeling under drought. Rains fail, crops fail, farmers are not able to repay debts, farmer suicides happen. That is the routine story from there. You are Chief Minister of the state, so you ought to know. Vidarbha happens to be the National capital for farmer suicides. Insufficient irrigation, failing rain and your government promoting BT-cotton that requires more water than normal cotton is an important part of the crop failure.

Here are some headlines to remind you, if you had forgotten:

Last summer, Maharashtra faced drought too. If you forget the Central Sarkar team's visit, you at least probably remember that Rajkumar Gandhi too had visited after them. The drought continued. The corrupt tanker walahs minting a fortune. Pawar had blamed Maharashtra governor, for some reason. Remember?

Cut to a news story in the Times of India on 25th August 2012 - this is when (in theory) Maharashtra gets rain. Vidarbha was facing drought. Vidarbha is mostly dependent on rain-fed agriculture. Times of India reported that 14 talukas were drought hit and sowing could be achieved on less than 50% of land. And Vidarbha was lucky with only 14 talukas hit, because western Maharashtra and Marathwada had 100 talukas between them. And we are talking of the monsoon here. It was insufficient, yes, but the water scarcity was happening even during the monsoon season. When monsoon is supposed to provide rain around the year (which has 12 months) 50-60% rainfaill may explain a shortage before the summer, but it does not explain why there is no water immediately after the monsoon.

Nagpur had received more than the average rainfall already at that point.

Fast forward to January, when VJAS raised the alarm on farmer suicides. 10 farmers had committed suicide in the first 15 days of 2013, with three of them on the 14th Jan. They released these numbers for the suicides in 2012. I admit your government disputes these figures, but little your government does leads one to imagine they actually know enough to dispute them. (Image: India Today)

Farmer Suicides per month in Vidarbha for 2012

They accused that false bills were provided for tanker water and cattle feed. What is being done to prevent deprivation of life saving resources to people as well as corruption in aid money?

But anyway, you get the idea that drought is hardly a stranger to this region. Now here are the questions:

What is the explanation for giving priority to industries over agriculture in our state water policy then? Is your government not telling a drought region where agriculture is the occupation for the largest number of people that they are on their own? The irrigation was not developed. Your water policy prefers industries. What water comes to agriculture, over 50% of it goes to the sugarcane sitting on 6% of the land. You are going to have to do some serious explaining how nature can manage such a miracle.

But this is not all. This supposedly natural drought has more such natural miracles involved.

The irrigation scam is horrendous. Ajit Pawar has signed off on the projects. You call it populist initiatives. I fail to understand how it is populist, when the populace itself is cursing you for it, while the people who got the contracts are close cronies and some of them went on to join NCP and BJP. Your coward minister walked out from this programme, but Anjali Damania asks one question. One question without any numbers in it that you should try answering. If the dams had never overflowed, why was their height (and cost) increased?

Sharad Pawar blithely declined to reduce either industries or sugarcane production in the name of profit and jobs. What jobs is he talking about?India has not added jobs in either agriculture or manufacturing since 1995. Sugarcane is the most water intensive crop, and for your idea of profit, it is being promoted in a place of drought. Take a look at this pretty graph DNA ran up along with a look at the devastating impact of the sugarcane Pawar is so attached to.

Sugarcane in drought hit areas (via DNA)

In the meanwhile, your guy in Jalna bullied off the competition to get a tanker contract without having to bid too low. he's giving interviews in media saying how he isn't doing it for profit. However free government tankers are a rare sight and private profiteers are thriving. What are you doing to combat this? Or, as CM, are you saying that poor people can die thristy or drink the mud they show remaining in wells and those who can afford will book tankers? Maybe it is a clever poverty reduction scheme. If poor die, we'll automatically have less poor people. And of course, if they die from daily trips for water under the scorching sun, it is a heat death - perfectly natural, yes?

But it isn't just about a skewed water policy or neglect, your government is overallocating resources. It seems to be allocating water that isn't there! Consider this excellent paper with a postmortem of how you do this with regard to the Ujani Reservoir - a Lift Irrigation sceme that was supposed to be tabled on 1st February 2013 - yep. As you were giving interviews about natural droughts and regrettable populist policies, you were entertaining another con. Incidentally the study mentions that the reservoir hasn't filled in 5 years, has 10 existing lift irrigation schemes and cannot physically contain half the water that has already been allocated from it.

If there are five flats in existence and I get you to fund 10, do you agree that it is a con? Nature does not do allocations.

Last December, the drought was on. Your government was planning water intensive power plants that would further reduce water availability in Wardha and Wainganga rivers. Do you mean to say power plants are like coral reefs - they come up "naturally"?

On the 26th February 2013 (right alongside your sweet talks on the drought), your railway minister presented the budget. In that budget, your INSANE government has proposed a Rail Neer bottling plant in Vidarbha of all places. The first day of the "Advantage Vidarbha meet" on the 25th contains a photo of you smiling magnanimously as deals are struck. Examples:  MoU are power plant equipment manufacture BHEL with an investment of Rs 2,500 crore, and Ambuja Cement with an investment of Rs 3,300 crore; Manikgarh Cements would be investing Rs 1,500 crore and Bhushan Steel would be investing Rs 1,350 crore. What part of this will increase the water available to a perpetually devastated populace? 

CM Chavan at Advantage Vidarbha

For that matter, in a place where the water table is often at 500ft, where will the water for these industries come from? Let me guess? From your miracle water policy of course! This was not Advantage Vidarbha, it was "taking advantage of Vidarbha".

Speaking of water table, why didn't your government invest in water harvesting? It is cheap, it is fast, it is effective, it is easy and it would heal the decimated water table of this region. Let me guess, small projects don't have pocket liners that make them interesting?

Nature cannot explain this, unless you mean it is a natural drought brought about by the greedy nature of politicians and their cronies.

A furious Maharashtrian.

 

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15

I have followed news on Maharashtra drought for days. It is most frustrating that there is little obvious drought relief. The need is water. What can we do?

I am just trying to brainstorm ways how we might be able to help.

  1. Reliable information from the ground indicates that there is a full fledged private water tanker business thriving on the needs of the people. Funds donated to drought relief organizations are often scammed - either as single delivery for multiple payments or other ways. The government tankers are usually missing, forcing people to purchase water.
  2. Rampant quantities of water are being extracted from the already depleted ground water and most of this water continues to go to industries buying in bulk while the usage that gets publicized is the far less quantity for human consumption in the name of drought relief.
  3. There is a need to figure out ways of forcing a halt on ground water extraction for any reasons beyond humanitarian relief.
  4. Donating things that will help people use less water. Disposable paper plates, such as could help save on dish washing water.
  5. Simple technologies like solar water sills that might help them get potable water out of waste water?
  6. Really trusted feminists and rights workers possibly offering residential housekeeping work to women who need to get out of the place - as an alternative to some of the worse desperate solutions? I don't know. Just thinking out loud.
  7. Collect contacts for various funds and people on the ground and verify and analyze them to see who is likely to bring most impact and promote those and encourage people to help there.

We could start a community on the new Desi Pirates site for people who are able to get involved in drought to see if we can come up with solutions. The drought is going nowhere. The worst of summer is still ahead of us. Are there ways we can help lighten the burden?

Do you have ideas? Comment below. What is the most genius idea you can come up with that can help people who have little water and even less chances of more water in the near future? How can you help them cope?

Do you live in a drought hit area of Maharashtra? Or are willing to travel there to help (on own expense) if some idea needs it? Volunteer in the comments so we can keep track of you.

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