Chapter 2 – Poverty and Class analysis with reference to 2014-2018 BJP rule (I Part on Water)
Coming to water next – an issue so pressing that all governments should suspend themselves and concentrate on solving this if they are to make any sense in India for the 2019 election.
“A few numbers from the World Bank highlight the plight the country is facing:
163 Million Indians lack access to safe drinking water
210 Million Indians lack access to improved sanitation
21% of communicable diseases are linked to unsafe water
500 children under the age of five die from diarrhea each day in India
More than half of the rivers in India are highly polluted with numerous others at levels considered unsafe by modern standards. The waters of the Yamuna, Ganga and Sabarmati flow the dirtiest with a deadly mix of pollutants both hazardous and organic.
Aside from commonplace industrial pollution and waste, India’s rivers are open use across much of the country. From dumping human waste as previously noted to bathing to washing clothes, the human element contributes to the epidemic of health related concerns.
Adding to the human toll is the reliance on seasonal rains, which are often sporadic in some years and over abundant in others. Rain totals can vary greatly and do not always arrive in the places they are needed most. The drought and flooding that results from this inconsistent cycle often leads to crop failures and farmer suicides.”
No mention of plastic and dumping of garbage and ewaste and toxic waste here but still already a grim enough picture!
This is from a January 11, 2018 study – very much the latest one for anyone who thinks my statistics are outdated.
Now let me turn to two points – 1. Laurence Carter notes three examples that lead us to the conclusion that -“it’s now commonly agreed that we won’t achieve the Sustainable Development Goals without the involvement of private sector: management, financing, and innovation. It is no longer an “if” question; now we’re looking at “how”—and under what circumstances—crowding in private solutions help deliver better access to infrastructure services while being fiscally, environmentally, and socially sustainable.”
2. All the Indian start ups or the majority of them should thus be involved with air and water but instead what are they involved with? Technology (IT industry) and (sic) gathering votes for BJP for 2019. While BJP may say this is to ensure continuity in government so things can get done, this is both utter madness, the water problem in Punjab, in Kerala, in Tamil Nadu, in Maharashtra, in Karnataka and in most places in India including all urban centres of importance (Delhi, Kolkatta, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Banglaore, Chennai etc.) and not has run out of time, past zero hour, and only if we hold governments at gun point now is there going to be any difference.
Who will have water soon and who won’t? The answer is simple and clear. The rich will and the poor won’t. Do you want water wars not to happen in India and break it up into many countries soon? There is only one way out which is the way of radical steps –
“National Water Policy, 2012
1. Agriculture sector
Improvement in water usage efficiency;
Adoption of rainwater harvesting and watershed management techniques;
Reduction of subsidies on power supply particularly for pumping water;
Prevention of ground water exploitation by introducing differential pricing, rewards and punishments;
Implementation of National River Link project which aims to connect 30 rivers and canals to generates 175 trillion litres of water.
2. Industrial sector
Encourage recycling and treatment of industrial wastewater through regulations and subsidies;
Encourage introduction of new technologies which consume less water.
3. Domestic sector
Introduction of a policy for mandatory rainwater harvesting in cities;
Propagation of efficient water usage;
Creation of awareness about water conservation among common public.
Augmentation of water resources
While the consumption of water in India will increase by over 50%, the supply will increase only by 5-10% during the next 12-15 years. This will lead to water scarcity situation and most of the people, particularly those who are dependent on agriculture and living in poverty will suffer the most. “
It is six years from this paper by Hegde from which I have just cited and what has been done is so negligible as to be discounted and there is no one to steer things in the right direction with a yoga advertiser at the helm like Modi, in his capri pants, who only knows how to make tea and not water into wine.
Wake Up, my dear India! or die of thirst, water wars, religion and IT start ups as well as by catching votes for BJP, deluding yourself you have employment, while the rich escape and the poor die like flies on your Ram Rajya streets soon. Something worse than the fabled ten plagues that destroyed Egypt in the time of the Pharoah in the Bible is coming down the tube otherwise, on and across the nation, not a quick death but in a slow creeping pace.
Sometimes what I am trying to do is not fully clear to my readers so a little explanation is needed. I first quoted a 2018 article from Business Connect to show that the grimness of the water situation had not abated in four years of BJP rule and then quoted from a paper written in 2012 as to what had to be done which was not done. In between I quoted something from a World Bank writer which said that setting things to right in any domain of sustainable development was not possible unless one received help from the private sector now. However to qualify that from a Marxist or even regional or zonal perspective I am forced to point out that the best steps to redress the grimness of the water situation can come from locals, and not national or international sectors, many a time. This is a very key or important point to be kept in mind for those who go overboard on the privatisation bandwagon.
Since issue, analysis of data on it, diagnosis of root causes, and prescription of the same from top sources has to go hand in hand and I have given all three here in the case of air and water as I did before in the issue of caste I also need to talk of examples of success in the recent past which worked to help people to get water while dealing with this topic. The ones I know of are Jayalalithaa’s compulsory rainwater harvesting scheme in Tamil Nadu and her linking of rivers to reduce the Chennai situation of extreme lack of water or unsafe water and while I may or may not agree with her social policies to give the devil her due this was definitely great work on her part as were her canteens to reduce food scarcity, an act taken up by Siddaramaiah’s Congress government in his tenure in Karnataka therefore with Indira canteens, but in imitation, recently. She encouraged such initiatives in TN towards helping people to solve their water problems in a state which is always faced by severe drought and water scarcity and shortage and unsafe drinking water and resultant epidemics of huge proportions conditions.
Another example is of Jadav Payeng which shows what is needed is local help. Called the forest man of India and from Assam his example shows afforestation can lead both to increased rain and its capture increasing groundwater. We can read about it being reported even abroad. This is besides its other benefits for ecology, environment and flora and fauna.
Other examples are there but these two given by me should do for a start. In Jayalalithaa’s case it shows that if the ones in power have a will there is a way to bring change and improvement and in the latter case it shows that if locals take it into their hearts and minds to bring change again there is a way which can defeat the activities of politics and its middlemanship or the Indian laissez faire and passive mindset which is short sighted.
The examples show that all is not lost even as more and more programmes keep appearing on NDTV about water as to who is responsible for the water crisis but it is a futile and fruitless discussion as everyone is, including Congress, BJP, you, and I, and what matters is the urgency and drive to overcome the crisis. How it can be overcome is simple – by giving a majority and overwhelming mandate to a party – my choice being the Congress – who will make things like air and this their election priority electorally through voting and force the same Party – Congress being more amenable to such force from the people than BJP- to not only enact laws that implement change but enforce them by very steep penalties if broken, the major need being radical choices like linking rivers if need be to supply water to all as work to be taken up and done at breakneck speed with no displacement of people or ecological damage and not buying bullet trains or building Shivaji statues, that money being instead compulsorily being diverted for this project which should be on fast track and world class.
(Thanks to Himali Narang
for discussing this part before I wrote it, with me, to give me useful pointers to make it more rounded out.)
Recently I am flooded with news and notifications even on whatsapp and fb and on TV and in newspapers that something has to be done about the quality of the air we breathe and the water situation. Finally, in 2018, as the elections are coming which is the only reason why and also because the crisis looms ever larger with each passing day . I belong to a group called Local Circles run by BJP and even there these warnings have started appearing as well as analysis of what is wrong with Modi and his government and how Karnataka was lost which are swiftly removed by some admin or the other as by the time I go there they are removed. Other extremely poisonous things that are undemocratic are allowed to remain. The question is it is still laymen writing and what were the Congress and BJP doing meanwhile to allow this situation to build up. They were feathering, and still are, their own nests, have no doubt. That’s love for the nation for you today while meanwhile tarring or branding others with the anti nationalist label who are not anti national. And trying to divide India into two kinds of citizens, those who are more Indian and less Indian.
To illustrate, let me come to Bangalore. When the elections were held here two things were noted, one that the voting was low and second that the people here did not really seem interested in who won or lost the election. The reasons are not just that Bangalore is flooded with non Kannadigas but also that Bangaloreans know the outcome is irrelevant regarding their key problems.
They are as anyone who has lived here knows a. water b.electricity c. the condition of roads d. traffic congestion e. congestion caused by population f. garbage and e-waste leading to health problems g. an imbalance in the population caused by the influx of too many ‘foreigners’. h, depletion of the green cover leading to rent in ozone layer and climate change i. felling of trees and not addressing the problem of the presence of imported trees in ratio opposed to local ones etc. This affects air.
The last is the least of the problems but the others have not been satisfactorily addressed by governments I have watched in action. Congress, BJP and now Kumaraswamy as yet though he seems to have taken up the fight for water against BJP (out of lack of choice, no doubt) that does not want him to solve it but are supporting Tamil Nadu as they want it solved in their time so they can get the credit irrespective of who suffers or not in the meantime.
The centre should be impartial in such instances but here they are not only at variance with the worst hit state but also supporting Tamil Nadu only because that Government is closer to them – this makes BJP no different from and worse than Congress as people had higher hopes on them and they have let them down without being bothered about the suffering caused to farmers and common people by not having water.
Here is what the Indian Express has to say about it.
While the article says Karnataka is the worst hit and parties have to include this in their election manifesto, finally, no one is talking of the real solutions.
1. Funding – to be strictly diverted and the funding to come from government, the corrupt, the rich, the corporates, etc. Forcibly. Not by taxing individuals more and more.
2. Nationalism – meaning that we have to be conducive to the idea now that water has to be shared nationally, and no one can refuse.
3. This being a crisis, education, awareness, and rainwater harvesting being made compulsory as well as methods to purify and desalinate etc.
4. Heavy fines to be imposed on defaulters not meeting water work targets, over use of water etc.
I could go on and on but the point is to stop spending on things like religious festivals, weddings and such grandiose meaningless events and spend on water and learn to not be a defaulter at every level, as an individual, a community and a society and a nation.
Dr A.V. Koshy is an established author and writer who is a poet, critic and artist. He has a doctorate in Samuel Beckett’s Poems in English from the University of Kerala, now published. He has co-authored and published a monograph of essays called Wrighteings: In Media Res and has several, published research papers to his credit. His greatest desire is to build a village for people having autism where all their needs are met. He runs an NGO called “Autism for Help Village Project” with his wife for this dream to come true. He has fourteen other books out now as fiction writer, literary critic, poet, academician, literary theoretician, essayist, editor, anthologist, co -editor, co-author and co-contributor. His latest and perhaps best book is a collection of short stories Scream and Other Urbane Legends.