India against Hindustan

Sankara Narayanan

On 15th January 2015, monorail services broke down due to power disruption and 11 persons left stranded in suburban Mumbai. Soon all 10 passengers and one pilot were safely evacuated to the ground. Services were restored by noon within three hours of disruption. Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis took serious note of the incident and appointed a senior bureaucrat to immediately initiate an inquiry.

Kirit Somaiya, BJP MP from Mumbai, who visited the spot criticized the disaster management setup and asked why there was no alternate power supply. The MP said the incident was an "eye-opener" and asked the authorities to ensure that such mishaps did not reoccur. "Is it the failure of the power company? I will raise the issue in Parliament", he told reporters.

Utmost concern for the human lives in Mumbai and the immediate action from the CM and MP are commendable. Fadnavis soon on assuming office had created a 'War Room in the Mantranalaya to sort out the bottlenecks in the infrastructure projects of Mumbai. The mega city is the paramount consideration of the Fadnavis government.

Contrast this with the situation prevailing in the countryside of Maharashtra. The year 2014-15 could well be the worst ever for agriculture in the state with the government now declaring another 1,078 villages as drought-affected. These are for the Rabi season. Earlier, the government had declared 23,311 villages draught-hit for the Kharif season. Thus, more than 71% of villages in the state are reeling under drought.

The BJP-led government is under severe pressure with not only from the opposition parties but also the ruling partner Shiv Sena gunning for the Fadnavis regime for not doing enough to ameliorate the plight of farmers.
As many as 93 farm suicides in the Marathwada region alone were reported in the first 45 days of 2015. Crop failure and debts are considered the main reasons for farm suicides. The delay in distribution of compensation is noted as the biggest reason for firm farmers to take the extreme step.

In its March 15 report, The Times of India newspaper narrates the grim situation prevailing in some areas of Pune division. As many as 17 tankers were deployed in 15 villages till Saturday. Eight villages are in Solapur and seven in Satara district. Total 28000 people in these villages are dependent on tankers to meet their daily needs of drinking water, according to Pune revenue division statistics. Officials said the demand for tankers could go up in the coming days.

With 14.20 TMC water left, the irrigation department plans to release water for agriculture as well. About 3 TMC water will be released from the Mutha canal for crops in rural parts of the Pune division in the next one month or more. Looking at the existing storage in dams this year, there won't be any problem in releasing water for farms. Pune city's supply remains unaffected an official said.

15 Villages deploying tankers for their water needs is of no concern. But releasing 20% of the available water for irrigation is to be defended by the officials. They assure the Pune's citizens 'releasing water for fields doesn't mean a cut in city's supply'. Every person in town or village needs water for drinking and other uses. Villages in addition need water for irrigation and cattle. But who cares?

Last year, Pune city had faced water cuts and alternate day supply in June due to late arrival of monsoons. Hence the approach is Pune centric. Villages can suffer but not cities. The once in a blue moon power breakdown in Mumbai is so alarming for Kirit Somaiya. Is he aware of the precarious power situation in the countryside?

With the untimely rains, hail storms and the lukewarm attitude from the state and the centre, the situation is certainly to go from bad to worse. In the midst of such miseries, the issue of beef banning gets the top most priority of the Fadnavis government. The young CM did not find it necessary to create a 'War Room' or initiate a high level probe to stop this dance of farm deaths.

Vol. 47, No. 43, May 3 - 9, 2015