Written By – SohiniBhattacharjee, Officer Communications
In my everyday metro life, drought is almost a non existential alienated subject. Rather, to me there are more pressing issues to meet in my daily existence – to catch the early morning metro, work to tick off from my list, socializing, my take on national and international affairs, endless discussions on seeking purpose, debates on social change and the list goes on.
In my dissection of the priorities, of looking at issues as ‘Important to my Life’ or ‘None of my Business’, drought has no space. Conveniently forgotten wrapped inside my morning newspaper where the subject might have got a mention, or in switching between FM channels when I choose to listen to a lighter song than to concentrate on serious social concerns. My mind silently warns me, conserve energy, you have much more heavier tasks to complete. Those are somebody else’s concerns, not yours, those are rural issues with no bearing in your urban life.
Than what suddenly drew my attention to the subject of drought. The imminent need of writing an article for an online journal.As I delved deeper on the secondary research, however, the magnanimity of the situation started penetrating me. Statistics revealed startling facts that one third of the country is under the impact of drought. Further digging brings to the fore that around 10 states,256 districts out of 675 are reeling under the effect of drought. The severity of the situation could be gauged from the fact that around 330 million people are massively affected.
Highlights in news channels leaves me stupefied, only 3 percent water of water is left in dams in the severely drought hit region of Marathwada, Maharashtra.  More alarming news hits the screen; two big hospitals are unable to conduct surgeries in latur, which is one of the worst affected district of the state.  The Ganga is running dangerously low in West Bengal and Farraka; eastern India’s largest power plant had to be shut down.  More such stories of water woes from Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat, Odisha, Karnataka and other drought affected states leaves me sad and flummoxed.
My mind gets skeptical. What lies ahead? Is scare of Mass death hovering over the vast rural population? Is alarming rise in farmer suicide not a pointer in that direction?As the affected population makes a desperate attempt to secure their livelihood and take the road leading to nearby towns, are our cities prepared to house them or provide them avenues of employment?
More heaviness awaits, as my imaginary wall dividing the rural and urban world comes crashing down. Can I take the food in my plate for granted anymore in the wake of India’s agriculture slowly sliding into a comatose. Am I disjointed from the truth that the farmer’s, the engineer of food production in our country are gradually getting pushed to become an extinct race.
Shortage in food will inevitably push the country to import from outside. Dependency on import would create pressure on the country’s economy. This in turn would invariably make a dent in the pockets of the common citizens by inversely impacting their purchasing power. Drought has finally hit home.
As hunger and starvation lurchs over waiting to break as an epidemic and eat away the country, we need to rise from our slumbers.
The central and state government is already making efforts to provide some relief to the drought affected population through the MGNREGA and other food security schemes and disaster management mandate. New initiatives have also been launched such as special trains are being run carrying water to some of the drought affected states, launch of Krishi Sinchai Yojana, launch of e – Mandi to increase the purview of local markets for the farmers and setting up of National Electronic Fund Management, through which wages could be directly distributed to the beneficiary account.
However, institutional remedies alone cannot address such national concerns which has assumed calamitous proposition. It is alarming to know that 91 nationally monitored large lakes and basins, critical for power,drinking and irrigation, levels have fallen by a third. Further, India has only 4% of the world’s water resources and 16% of the global population. The human resources of the second largest population of the country need to now put their hands up as agents of recovery.
Individual efforts such as rain water harvesting could be a significant stride to address the drought situation. Every citizen should make conscious effort to preserve water in buckets, bottles or in any other storage facility. National ‘PaaniDaan’ outlets could be created where people could donate the preserved water and states with excess in rainfall could lead the way. Similarly, mobile water donation boxes could be placed in religious places, schools, colleges, offices and Resident Welfare Associations (RWA’s) during such emergency times. Water collected could be transported to the affected states. As we collect donations during natural disasters water donation could also be collected from the nation both in form of resources or monetary.
We may not be able to build forest in the middle of cities, but may be we can replicate initiaves such as ‘Each One Plant One’. Such climate change mitigation step is the need of the hour to combat drought and other natural disasters alike. Such initiaves could be a crucial step towards involving and connecting masses of the country with social concerns. It could also give them a chance to see their tangible contribution in tackling national and global social concerns. Another crucial aspect is that such issues of national concern at least be spoken about in the spaces of every day and not remain confined as intellectual discussions or in the confines of media landscape. Such realities should not be limited to text books alone but children across educational institutions should be made part of live discussions and should be encouraged to create solution centric models by making them visit the affected areas.