The show must go on. This popular phrase is used in show business to convey that come rain or shine a planned show has to be staged for patrons. The overlords of cricket, in this case the Indian Premier League (IPL) seem to have taken this phrase to heart. Much to the astonishment and shock of many, including cricket lovers, the BCCI planned twenty T20 matches in water-starved Maharashtra. With politicians looking the other way, it finally fell on the Maharashtra High Court to do the needful.
On Wednesday, while hearing a PIL against the hosting of IPL matches by the state filed by Loksatta Movement, an NGO, the court came down heavily on the cricket board. Terming the use of water to maintain cricket pitches as “criminal wastage, the HC said that the state is facing a drought-like situation and that the matches should be shifted out of the state.
“People are more important or your IPL matches? How can you be so careless?” a division bench headed by Justices VM Kanade and MS Karnik asked the BCCI. For those who are still unconvinced about the hullaballoo, here is what the Mumbai Cricket Association will use for its seven IPL matches at the Wankhede stadium: 40 lakh litres.
India is facing a severe water crisis and Maharashtra along with Bundelkhand, which straddles Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, are the two major crisis points. In Maharashtra’s worst-hit region, Marathwada, dams and reservoirs are running dry and tankers are doing booming business. In Latur, one of the three badly-hit districts in Marathwada, the authorities imposed prohibitory measures to prevent clashes at one of the filling stations on the outskirts of the city after residents, fearful of the future, opposed sharing reservoir water. Following crop failure, grain procurement is down to Rs 5 crore as opposed to an average of over Rs 25 crore every day. Industries, especially the agro-processing and manufacturing units, have shut down indefinitely, says a report in Quartz.
The situation is not going to improve anytime soon. According to media reports, summer of 2016 will see above normal temperature. The aftermath of this unbearable weather: reduction in reservoir levels, severe heat, depleting ground water and unavailability of drinking water.
In such a scenario, the court is correct to raise the moral question: Is it right to go ahead with cricket matches when we really have a water crisis of huge proportions on hand? Many would argue that life will not stop for the crisis and that the water saved will not make any difference. Probably not, but then the principle of moral imperative cannot, rather must not, be overlooked here.
It is a pity that the court had to step in on an issue which should have been acted upon naturally to anyone conversant with the dire water situation in the state. Cricket is a game loved by the many Indians, but it exists in socio-economic milieu from which it cannot be divorced.