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MODI’S TSUNAMI-2: TIME TO WAKE UP ON DEFENCE, By PK Vasudeva, 15 June 2019 Print E-mail

Spotlight

New Delhi, 15 June 2019

MODI’S TSUNAMI-2

TIME TO WAKE UP ON DEFENCE

By PK Vasudeva

Certainly, the election results are a Tsunami-2 for Modi, bettering his 2014 performance. Riding on a massive saffron surge sweeping through most parts of India, the BJP-led NDA Government became the only non-Congress one to return to power in India’s political history.

Repeating its near improbable feat of landslide victory in North, East and West, the NDA with a vote share of nearly 50% surpassed its last Lok Sabha elections tally of 336 to achieve a super-sized number of 354, out of the total of 542 seats with the BJP’s triple ton of winning 303 seats. The Congress with 52 seats did not make 10% of the Lok Sabha strength of 543 (55), hence it was denied the status of Leader of Opposition (LOP) for the second time.

Undoubtedly, Modi’s emphasis on national security post the Balakot surgical strikes in February strengthened his image as a strong and decisive leader and defeated the Opposition's efforts to focus on economic and social issues with NaMo riding to victory on the crest of nationalism and national security.

Indeed, he used the terrorist attack in Pulwama by “enemy” Pakistan and Balakot as part of his ‘Hindutva-Security’ platform. Which helped build his macho image and a statesman who talked as an equal with world leaders like US President Donald Trump, Russia’s Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

However, his Government has not been able to do much on national security and defence related issues during his previous five years term. The modernisation of its defence forces suffered because of poor allocation of defence budget ---- only 1.44% of the GDP, the least since 1962.

 

Clearly, this is detrimental to armed forces capabilities in case of twin offensive from either of the two hostile neighbours. It is high time that the BJP-led NDA Government concentrates on modernisation of its defence forces and allocates sufficient funds during the next five years to make its Armed Forces and deterrents strong.

The BJP manifesto had declared that it would “speed up the purchases of outstanding defence related equipment and weapons, and equip the armed forces with modern equipment to strengthen the strike capability of the armed forces”. In reality this does not match its rhetoric on the acquisition of defence equipment, because of poor allocation of defence funds.

Nonetheless, the BJP’s clear and unambiguous stand on issues of nationalism and internal security, reflected in the Policy of “Zero Tolerance Against Terrorism and Extremism” and “giving a free hand to security forces in combating terrorism” did work.

As expected, the Party has repeatedly reiterated its resolve to abrogate Article 370, which gives Jammu and Kashmir autonomous status and annul Article 35A which the BJP and its Government finds discriminatory against non-permanent residents and women of the Valley. One hopes this is implemented sooner than later to prove that the Administration means business.

“We believe that Article 35A is an obstacle in the development of the State. We will take all steps to ensure a safe and peaceful environment for all residents of the State. We will make all efforts to ensure the safe return of Kashmiri Pandits. We will provide financial assistance for the resettlement of refugees from West Pakistan, Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK) and Chhamb,” promises the BJP manifesto.

On another critical issue --- restructuring higher defence management --- the Congress manifesto talks of establishing the office of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) as a single advisor to the Government on defence related issues and a member of Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).

But the BJP manifesto is silent on this important issue. There is a definite requirement of CDS as recommended by earlier high-powered committees --- Subrahmanyam Committee 2001, Group of Ministers Committee 2002 and Naresh Chandra Committee Task Force 2011.

Besides, there is a dire need of integrating Ministry of Defence with the three Armed Forces Headquarters by posting officers in the Ministry for better coordination, fast acquisition of weapons and equipment and infusing efficiency in the system.

Importantly, the Modi government should be magnanimous in honouring the good points of the Congress manifesto like the appointment of CDS and implementing reforms in the defence forces.

On the economic front India has been rated as the fastest growing economy of the world by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank has ranked it the 6th largest economy beating France. India is now likely to beat Britain in the next fiscal by emerging as the 5th largest economy of the world.

Today needs to work post haste to overcome the critical economic situation and its failures in several economic sectors: High unemployment level, the agricultural crisis and the impacts of sudden demonetisation and poor implementation of GST.

Hopefully, the Modi Government will create a healthy environment for accepting positive suggestions of Opposition Parties. All Parties must rise above demeaning their rivals, should forget the electoral rancor and curb abusive language against each other as all Indian have one aim: Growth of country. ---- INFA

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

 

Tackling Natural Disasters: STRATEGY AND FAR SIGHT VITAL By, Dr. Oishee Mukherjee, 14 June 2019 Print E-mail

People & Their Problems

New Delhi, 14 June 2019

Tackling Natural Disasters

STRATEGY AND FAR SIGHT VITAL

By Dr. Oishee Mukherjee

 

In the wake of Cyclone Vayu which is plummeting Gujarat, disaster management is once again in the eye of the storm. Notwithstanding the stupendous rescue and evacuation operations by Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik of over 13 lakhs people who were affected by Cyclone Fani recently. The State needs at least Rs 1,00,000 crores to rebuild damaged houses and public infrastructure wiped out by the storm.

 

Today, the Western State sails in the same boat with power supply being disrupted in over 560 villages and over being three lakh people being evacuated to safer areas. Over 77 trains bound for Gujarat have been cancelled and nearly 1000 NDRF personnel including medical and rescue experts are stationed therein to expedite rescue and relief operations.

 

Certainly, India has its fair share of natural disasters such as floods, droughts, cyclones, earthquakes, landslides, avalanches and forest fires in the last few years with global warming aggravating its frequency which causes a huge loss to the life, property, economy and infrastructure.  

 

In fact, not many are aware that 27 States and Union Territories out of 35 are disaster prone, almost 58.6% of the landmass is affected by earthquakes of moderate to very high intensity; over 40 million hectares (12 % land) are predisposed to floods and river erosion; of the 7,516 km long coastline, close to 5,700 km is inclined to cyclones and tsunamis; 68% of the cultivable area is vulnerable to drought and hilly areas are at risk from landslides and avalanches.

 

In this milieu, the proposed global Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) --- an Indian initiative on the lines of the Solar Alliance of 120 countries --- is a step in the right direction which received a boost with India pledging Rs 480 crores to set up a secretariat in New Delhi.

 

The initiative has the support of the UN and the World Bank. Among the 33 countries which have already supported the Indian initiative, Italy, UK, Australia, South Africa and European Union have agreed to fund the new organization set to be declared at the UN Climate Summit, scheduled at the UN headquarters this September.

 

Pertinently, the CDRI will work to develop common standards in infrastructure building and invest in research and development that will also determine funding from multilateral banks towards future investments by countries. The coalition’s charter provides for facilitating collaborative start-ups between countries to develop knowledge platforms on disaster and climate risk and resilience for infrastructure.

 

Meanwhile an UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) study October last found 95% of all disasters in the past two decades (1996-2017) were caused by floods, storms, droughts, heat waves and other extreme weather events.  Globally, disaster losses during this period were estimated at $ 3 trillion.

 

Low income countries like India suffered greater economic losses with up to 87% of their disasters not reported recording losses of $ 80 billion during the 20-year period. Globally disaster losses are estimated at $ 520 billion per annum, pushing more than 26 million people into poverty every year. As a result, inequality is rising at a far greater pace than projected, the study rightly revealed. 

 

Among natural disasters, many earthquakes have been witnessed in the Himalayan region but India has not learnt from past mistakes to tackle such an eventuality. At an international workshop on ‘Climate Change & Extreme Weather Events’ held recently, experts discussed the effects of climate change, melting of glaciers, increased frequency of weather events, atmospheric pollution etc. Scientists from various fields of expertise concurred that an earthquake of the magnitude of 8.5 or more is expected to rock the Himalayan region.

 

These research groups, including the one in IIT Roorkee are in the process of developing earthquake early warning systems which could give people up to a minute of warning before the quake. A section of scientists believe that science can tell where an earthquake may strike and with what magnitude, but predicting the time might not be possible.

 

Though it is generally regarded that prediction of quakes is a rather impossible task, the efforts of engineers at Roorkee would go a long way in saving lives. However, seismologists believe that even such warning to enable people to safely vacate their buildings before an earthquake, homes might still be destroyed, turning a whole society into refugees. Additionally, not a few pointed out that publicly funded Government buildings in Himalayan States such as Sikkim and Manipur could not survive low intensity earthquakes.

 

The need for buildings to be quake resilient is repeatedly being stressed, akin to medical instruments being sterilised before use, irrespective of whether a patient is rich or poor. Thus, building of proper infrastructure is necessary for which the CDRI might play a significant role in the coming years.

 

Another natural disaster which is almost a recurring problem for India every year is floods. Melting of glaciers and excessive rainfall in certain parts of the country has resulted in floods in many regions, specially the North East. Add to this, cutting down of trees and clearing forests has aggravated the situation. In such circumstances, lack of infrastructure has resulted in massive loss of lives and property.

 

Clearly, the whole issue is one of serious concern but planners have not given it enough attention as the sufferers are mostly poor people who reside in villages and in coastal belts of the country. Very few people in cities and urban areas have been affected and since the focus of our planning strategy is urban centric, flood protection has not received due attention in terms of resource allocation. Consequently, floods are witnessed almost every year though, in recent years, evacuating people from flood affected areas has been faster than before. 

 

In such a critical situation, there is need to evolve a strategy to counter all types of natural disasters in an effective manner. It needs to be pointed out, that unlike the West, which is economically better equipped to handle climate change and its repercussions, countries like India and China bear the brunt of disasters caused by rising emissions and a warmer planet.

 

Besides, if there are no floods or cyclones in the country, India faces drought in several areas. The rise in temperatures is rather phenomenal causing natural disasters. In fact, temperatures in three cities Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi have seen a steady rise during the last several years.

 

Undoubtedly, infrastructure development and awareness generation have to be taken up in right earnest by the Government. Side by side there is also need to involve grass-root organizations in tackling disasters, specially floods, cyclones and earthquakes.

 

Further, human rights institutions are uniquely placed to play a role in ensuring that the human rights of those affected by natural disasters are promoted. Those that have expertise in human rights principles and are rooted in locally might have a better view of what is needed and what is possible than national actors.

 

True, specific national contexts might vary and different kinds of disasters require different responses, but the need to uphold human rights in emergency situations is constant. ---- INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

 

 

Water Crisis: ‘DAY ZERO’ LOOMS LARGE By Dr.S.Saraswathi, 13 June 2019 Print E-mail

Open Forum

New Delhi, 13 June 2019

Water Crisis

‘DAY ZERO’ LOOMS LARGE

By Dr.S.Saraswathi

(Former Director, ICSSR, New Delhi)

 

A Division Bench of the Madras High Court directed all district collectors across Tamil Nadu to constitute committees and to book cases under Section 379 of the IPC (theft) against persons illegally drawing groundwater. The Court was hearing a PIL against illegal extraction of groundwater for sale. A Government order passed in 2014 prohibits illegal tapping of groundwater as a crime.

 

Water scarcity has resulted in the growth of a lucrative water trade and sudden emergence of private water suppliers. In many towns and cities in southern India, water cans are sold in grocer shops and vegetable markets. Borewells are dug deep in vacant lands in private possession without proper permission of concerned authorities for direct sale of water or through regular suppliers which results in drying up of other borewells for domestic use in houses around.  

Undoubtedly, the water crisis is a global problem affecting several countries in all continents. About one-fifth of the world’s population are living in areas of water scarcity and another one-fourth are said to be facing severe water shortage.  The reasons for shortage   are both natural and human-made and shortage is aggravated in many places by uneven distribution, wastage, pollution and unsustainable management. 

The International Decade for Action “Water for life” was observed during 2005-2015, but without much positive effect.  On the contrary, the rate of water use is calculated to be growing more than twice that of the population.  Water scarcity is felt in more and more places though the extent of shortage varies.

The NDA Government soon after assuming office announced the setting up of a new Jal Shakti Ministry under a Cabinet Minister and amalgamates the Ministries of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation and the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation. It immediately announced the Nal se Jal Scheme ---- to provide drinking water through pipes to every household by 2024 to fulfil one of the BJP’s election promises that will directly benefit every person. 

Like the Swachh Bharat scheme, it also needs people’s cooperation for proper implementation.  The Ministry is expected to provide the much needed impetus to water conservation as nearly 45% of India is reeling under drought. To raise awareness about the water situation, the Water Channel is now part of the Weather Channel Forecast.

It is said that more than 100 million people in India could run out of water by 2020 due mostly to poor management and another 100 million could face inaccessibility to water near their homes.   Press reports and TV channels are showing pathetic pictures of women fetching water for their domestic use from far off places while rivers, tanks and ponds nearby are lying dry.

Agriculture suffers most and there are reports of farmers selling their trees and families migrating from their water-starved villages. Construction activities are coming to a halt in many cities and industries are forced to slow down.  Schools and offices ask their staff and students to bring their drinking water.  Water protests are daily events made worse by bias in distribution.

Worse, with rainfall predicted to be below average this monsoon, groundwater levels are depleting everywhere and water crisis is the main talk of citizens.   There is a fear that “Day Zero” may arrive in India by 2020.

“Day Zero” refers to the bitter experience in South Africa’s Cape Town in early 2018 after three consecutive years of severe drought when it seemed the city would run out of water and taps would be shut off. Luckily, the Day was pushed off without announcement of a new date by tremendous efforts at water conservation and arrival of rains. Day Zero forecast by the Mayor of Cape Town will be the day when 4 million residents  of the town will be required to collect daily water rations  which would be less than 7 gallons (25 litres) for each person.

The idea of Day Zero was introduced to focus everyone’s attention on the importance of regulating water consumption as best as possible.  Its main features are water rationing and standing in queue to get the ration.

India has to learn a lesson on water conservation and usage to forestall the arrival of Day Zero. 

Some are of the opinion that Day Zero has already arrived in India for over 100 million people living without access to water near their homes.  By 2020, Day Zero may cover most of India due to excessive exploitation of groundwater.  Natural shortage of water is being aggravated by pilferage, wastage and leakage. Technology for re-use of waste water and conversion of salt water into potable water is not well developed in the country.

Depletion of groundwater is a serious threat aggravating water famine in many cities. A NITI Ayog  report released in 2018 highlights this problem by predicting that by 2020, 21 major cities including Delhi, Bangaluru and Hyderabad would face complete drying up of groundwater. Pertinently, India is a groundwater economy. It is the highest user of groundwater in the world using 25% of total groundwater extracted globally.  It is ahead of the USA and China which are the other two major users of groundwater.

Goal 6 of the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the UN General Assembly to be achieved during 2015-30 says that everyone on earth should have access to safe and affordable drinking water. Climate change is likely to increase the size of the population affected by water shortage which has already crossed 40% of people around the world. 

Besides, water quality in India is so poor that it ranks 120 among 122 countries in quality index.  “When water is available, it is likely to be contaminated up to 70% of our water supply”, states NITI Ayog which reports that this would cause nearly two lakh deaths in a year. Contamination follows shortage in the quest for some water and use of untreated water causing water-borne diseases.

Clearly, humanity is today facing acute overuse and pollution of water threatening the ecosystems and health and livelihoods of billions particularly the vulnerable.  The poorest are the most vulnerable. 

True, water management is generally considered as a very suitable area for people’s participation, but even here, politics and money power may intervene.  It can be organized at various points from the grassroots as States are primary water managers in India. Social participation should not be equated to social activism or protest movements; nor does it mean referendums and debates.

In sum, extensive involvement of informal associations with official committees is required and this is happening in many parts of India. But, the tendency to resort to litigations and court decisions and predominance of experts and engineers tend to silence the voice of the affected people.  Social participation is political as well as economic and is subjected to the stresses that arise from competing demands, rights, priorities and interests.

Still, enthusiastic social participation in water management is a reality in many countries. To avoid the dawn of Day Zero, nation must wake up and act. ----- INFA

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

Economic Challenges Ahead: CAN GOVT MITIGATE THEM?, By Dhurjati Mukherjee, 12 June 2019 Print E-mail

Events & Issues

New Delhi, 12 June 2019

Economic Challenges Ahead

CAN GOVT MITIGATE THEM?

By Dhurjati Mukherjee

 

The economy is in a bad shape and experts believe it is in a worse shape than five years ago. Obviously the new Government has to face the challenges with great vision and tenacity. Topping the agenda is job creation, high growth and more investments besides the need to check the fiscal deficit and removing farm distress.

 

Undeniably, the rural sector is beset with varied problems as the focus of development is on the urban sector. It is noteworthy that within 24 hours of taking oath, the Government approved extension of the PM-Kisan income support scheme to all farmers, removed the limit of 2 hectares and cleared a pension scheme for agriculturists and self-employed persons.

 

“The decisive election result will propel India’s growth pace to the next orbit and drive the transformation of the country”, stated CII President Vikram Kirloskar recently. Certainly, such positive statements look quite encouraging, however the crisis is quite deep and only a judicious approach which is inclusive and takes a balanced view of the situation should be undertaken.

 

Importantly, a Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy data on the unemployment situation shows the number of unemployed increased by 11 million in 2018 which has gone up further in the last 5 months. Another study, State of Working India 2019 report by the Azim Premji University found that five million men lost their jobs in 2016-2018.

 

The beginning of jobs decline coincides with demonetisation in November 2016 although no direct casual relationship can be established, the report added. It also found that in addition to rising unemployment among the higher educated, less educated workers have also seen job losses and reduced work opportunities since 2016.

 

The report on India’s labour market is based on the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) Consumer Pyramids Survey. It found unemployment has risen steadily post 2011 with the overall unemployment rate being around 6% in 2018, double of what it was in the 2000-2011 decade. Adding to rising unemployment among the higher educated, the less educated workers have also seen job losses and reduced work opportunities since 2016.

 

Meanwhile, economic growth fell to its slowest pace to below 6% in 18 quarters in January-March as demand for cars and consumer goods slumped while farm output contracted, posing an immediate challenge to the Government. Alongside, with limited fiscal space and build-up of massive off balance sheet liabilities, a focused effort to address a strong and sustained revenue mobilization is necessary.

 

True, the fiscal deficit has been kept low on paper by accounting tricks. But the total public sector borrowing requirement exceeds 8% of GDP, among the highest in the world.

 

According to National Institute of Public Finance & Policy’s Prof. N. R. Bhanumurthy there is need for fiscal stimulus to take a look at fiscal consolidation. There is also need to incentivise domestic savings and increase public spending as measures to rejuvenate the economy. Clearly, consumption has to be addressed immediately.

 

On the export front, India’s trade deficit reached a record high of $ 176 billion in 2018-19. Worse, exports failed to touch the Government’s internal target of $ 350 billion. A continuous import shoot-up, which grew at double digit levels for six months in the last 12 months, took cumulative imports to a soaring high of $ 507.44 billion. This trade deficit needs to be brought under control carefully.

 

The only redeeming feature has been road building which continued since Vajpayee’s time as also electrification and electricity distribution. However, though rural schemes have got a thrust, they have been rebranded from Congress nomenclatures. While most toilets either do not have water or sewage connection, gas cylinders are not replaced. The lack of proper decentralization or the Government’s lack of concern to implementation and follow-up on these schemes is a big challenge. 

 

The ‘Make in India’ programme is one key feature that need to be given a thrust. Besides, promotion of agro-based and micro or cottage industries that have great potential for employment generation should be given necessary support along-with massive skill generation training would be a step in the right direction.

 

Further, to check imports of electronic goods, attention should be given to the electronics sector as the private sector has somewhat failed to set up world class semi-conductor manufacturing company in the last two decades.

 

As electronic devices proliferate, there has to a genuine effort to boost R&D and try manufacturing some key components, specially semi-conductors which are in huge demand and profits are high. With the Government’s special relations with Japan and South Korea, collaborations in this field may yield the desired results. Indeed, the new industrial policy may make the ‘Made in India’ dream a success.  

 

In the rural sector, there has to be serious introspection in ensuring that benefits reach those whom they are intended for, specially tribals, dalits and the rural poor. For this to happen there has to be definite rural orientation in the planning and implementation strategy with more powers to panchayats and grass-root organizations.

 

Noticeably, health and education has been neglected due to resource constraints and lack of strict monitoring. In Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary year, it would be prudent to push ahead with political and economic decentralization in the true sense of the term.  

 

Resource mobilization is a key factor for India’s first woman Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in carrying out developmental activities. She will have to restore the country’s economic health and contend with the banking industry’s bad loans alongside an industry that has shown a marked aversion towards attracting investments.

 

There is feeling, and not without justification, that higher the tax rate, greater the incentive to evade taxes, for instance, by transfer pricing. Low tax rates combined with low depreciation rates might have a strong incentive effect. But, tax for the super rich class need not be reduced and the top business class should be persuaded by the Government to take up developmental schemes, not on their own accord but as stipulated by it.

 

The private sector’s involvement leaves much to be desired. Those who talk of privatization fail to realize that this sector aims to amass profits and has no social objective. As such, privatization may not be the answer but public-private partnership with management control jointly shared could yield desired results. It cannot be denied that this sector has not been investing enough to boost growth and generate industrial activity.

 

Finally, as the new Government readies to present the budget on 5 July it should seriously consider the problems affecting the country and try to find the best possible solution in the given circumstances. It is easy to point out challenges however, a dedicated Government can overcome these in the coming years. ---- INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Careless India: WOH MAR GAYA, TOH?, By Poonam I Kaushish, 11 June 2019 Print E-mail

Political Diary

New Delhi, 11 June 2019

My Careless India

WOH MAR GAYA, TOH?

By Poonam I Kaushish

 

Circa 2 June, Aligarh UP: A two-and-a-half year old girl’s maggots infested mutilated body is found in a garbage dump three days after her murder. The cause for this barbaric act? The culprits were asked to repay a Rs 10,000 loan to her grandfather so they killed his granddaughter. Worse, the police failed to register a case resulting in five policemen being suspended after a huge national public outcry.

 

Circa 6 June, Latehar Jharkhand:  A 65-year old man starves to death  because he has not eaten for 4 days as his family did not receive ration for the last three months because the biometric machine was not working. In neighbouring Orissa a family of six have died of malnourishment and another family of eight in UP. Raising serious questions about the nature of India’s welfare state today.

 

Circa 7 June, Akola Maharashtra: Old and young people are forced to walk miles to dig pits and wait for three hours to fill one pot of clean drinking water. Whereby, their daily battle to quench their thirst is a losing one as H2O is scarcer than gold. In Madhya Pradesh the police are busy escorting water tankers to ensure riots do not break.

 

The anger and indignation coursing through the streets of India is palpable. Alas, nothing has changed in Mera Desh Mahan. Daily newspapers scream of abject poverty, starvation deaths, harassment by police, fights over water or bullied over morsels of food. Less said the better of our leaders, policemen and bureaucrats. All stand mute testimony to a callous, heartless and selfish Administration bereft of cure and consolation. Collectively selling their souls for the magnificence of propaganda as the aam aadmi translates only into mere sterile statistics to be manipulated at will.

 

Raising a moot point: Where is my India going? Most important, where are our leaders taking it? To hell it seems. What worries one is that these brutalities have not stirred our netas conscious. Will they wish it away as a bad dream? An issue which will die its natural death within days? Does anyone really care? 

 

Not at all, given brutality and bestiality, arrogance and ‘I-am-the-law’ attitude have become synonymous with the police. Any wonder they go by the acronym Policewala Goonda. Thanks to Government’s criminal casualness --- kaam chalao and babudom’s choord yaar attitude. Arguably, do we still have rule of law? When did we become a morally corrupt and sick society that murders and rapes children? And women?

 

Is Brand India aware that nearly 195.9 million Asli Bharat Indians go to sleep on empty stomachs, over 700 million living below the poverty line, 3,000 children die of malnutrition every day, 14.9% of our population is undernourished and nearly one million dying every year due to inadequate healthcare facilities despite economic growth, Right to Food For All Act and India being the world’s sixth-largest economy.

So how does the Government intend ensuring basic food for all and building on human capital? How long will the political posturing continue instead of a serious debate on hunger? Which neta will take the lead to ensure that nobody else dies of hunger?

 

This is not all. Over 43.4% of the country is already reeling under drought. Twenty-one cities including Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad will run out of ground water by 2020 affecting 60 crores people and 11 river basins including Ganga will be water deficit by 2025, threatening over a billion lives with the challenge getting graver by 2050 as demand rise to 1,180 million cubic metres, 1.65 times the current levels even as fresh water resources dwindle. A June 2018 Niti Ayog report grimly forecasts water demand will be twice the present supply and India could lose up to 6% of its GDP.

 

And yet our jan sevaks continue to live in 5 acres lush bungalows in Lutyens Delhi and grow wheat and vegetables to feast on. All at we, the tax payers expense. Questionably, does it make any that our Rashtrapati should live in a 350-bedroom mansion in luxuriant sprawling 300 acres Rashtrapati Bhawan boasting a 9-hole golf course, swimming pool, tennis courts etc even as the aam aadmi grovels for a tarpuline to keep his and his family’s body and soul together. Why do our leaders need these ersatz trappings when the world’s most powerful leader the US President resides in an one acre White House. Can our poor country justify this rich extravagant waste?

 

The Government’s answer? Create a monolith Jal Shakti Ministry which is the amalgamation of Ministries of Water Resources, River Development, Ganga Rejuvenation, Sanitation and Drinking water. Look skywards to ward off the crisis while the Tamil Nadu Government has ordered all temples to hold yagnas to appease the rain Gods to cope with the water shortage, Madhya Pradesh is mulling a ‘Right to Water’ legislation to ensure adequate water for every person and residents of Rajasthan’s Thar desert are forking out Rs 2,500 to buy 2,500 litres of water which they share with their cattle.

 

Add to this, water levels have fallen 21.5% in the last decade and by next year India will be categorized as “water stressed.” India has 18% of the world's population but only 4% usable water, wastes more than it produces and spends billions on inane projects instead of focusing on water conservation. Alongside, air pollution causes 12.5% of all deaths and 1 lakh children below 5 years die from air pollution every year according to the State of India’s Environment Report.  

 

For those who enjoy the ruinous events unfolding, there is some good news! The end of the tragedy is nowhere in sight. The bad news? It’s simply a system’s failure! They collectively coo. Who failed the system? Not the politician, bureaucrat or police. All point accusing fingers at each other. Nevertheless, everyone agrees there is something rotten in the State of Denmark!  And we call ourselves a civilised society!

 

The worst thing is nobody seems to care. The middle class has too many problems of its own to be bothered about the poor, the poor are getting angrier and desperate, the rich, as always, don’t care. For a while now, ‘feel-good’ has been the holy grail of media and Establishment. It’s almost a national conspiracy, let’s ignore the warts and bad things, focus only on those glitzy speeches and idolise success.

 

However, these recent incidents make it imperative that we rethink how we want to shape New India. Tough times call for tough action. A revolutionary change is needed. Our leaders need to end their reckless drift offering pies in the sky. Pragmatic competence and out-of-the-box thinking is the need of the hour. Establish close links between policy, research and service with the aam aadmi at the centre of development.

 

One needs neither a bleeding heart nor blindness to know what should be done. It only holds out promises of more misery, more wrenching news bulletins and more cries for the Government to act. Zabaani jama khurch will not apply balm on scarred souls ravaged by malnourished stomachs. After all, life is not about collating numbers, but flesh and blood with beating hearts. the time is far gone to play the pied piper, just let them bleed and aver its only life, stupid! ---- INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

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