With due apologies to the Bombay high court, its order directing 13 IPL matches to be shifted from Maharashtra is like putting a band aid on a patient with a heart condition. The relief provided is symbolic rather than material.
Mind you, the value of symbolism in the matter is not inconsequential. Had the high court not taken up the PIL filed, the magnitude of the drought in Maharashtra would not have come into the national consciousness.
But in penalizing the BCCI, the court appears to have missed the woods for the trees. The attention shifted to the IPL rather than how the dire situation of the farmers in Marathwada and Vidharbha can be alleviated with the immediacy needed.
There are several good reasons to pillory the IPL: for maladministration, corruption scams et al. But for all its fault, the BCCI surely can’t be held guilty for the drought in Maharashtra.
To judge the situation in a simple cause and effect paradigm is fallacious. Because the BCCI has been up to no good on many counts, it can’t be that it is up to no good on all counts.
That is pandering to a skewed sense of righteousness, not assessing the situation in its reality. It is easy to whip the BCCI and IPL these days because it suffers from low credibility. But that is not the solution to the drought.
While 13 matches have been shifted out of Maharashtra, these will still be played elsewhere. The same – if not more – amount of water will have to be spent for preparing the grounds.
The drought in Maharashtra is a national tragedy, not just restricted to the state. Water used anywhere for IPL matches, therefore, has the same impact. So what’s the gain?
Equating it directly with the IPL trivialises the drought tragedy, as Rahul Dravid has rightly pointed out. It also shifts the locus of the problem away from the executive, whose job it is to address the crisis, to a sports body whose job it isn’t. The Bombay high court in its order observed that the “Court cannot be blind to the plight of millions of people.”
And yet, that is exactly what India’s lawmakers and courts have been for the past two years at least.
This the second year of drought in Maharashtra and the picture was pretty grim before that too. The IPL had nothing to do with the drought and water shortage then and has nothing to do with it now.
Pertinently, the PIL asking for the IPL matches to be shifted from Maharashtra filed by Surendra Srivastava of the Loksatta Party was against the state government, not the BCCI.
The need to bring in the IPL, as Mr Srivastava admits candidly, was to use a high-profile event to highlight the state’s failure in managing drought: now it would appear as if the IPL was the cause.
There is no doubt a nuanced aspect to this case in that some of the senior functionaries of the BCCI are politicians cutting across party lines (Sharad Pawar, Anurag Thakur, Rajiv Shukla, Jyoti Scindia etc) who should have been aware of the ground realities.
But they have been blind to the plight of millions when they could have made the BCCI more pro-active in addressing the drought issue instead of getting into this unholy rigmarole.
As we are now starting to hear, sugarcane is an extremely thirsty crop. Most of Maharashtra’s water goes to sugarcane. And the sugarcane lobby is the state’s single most powerful group.
As one understands there are options to sugarcane which are less
thirsty and better for the ground. For instance, sugar beet which takes just four months to grow, uses less than half the water used for sugarcane and also produces more sugar. It also grows well with drip irrigation, an ideal way to conserve agricultural water. But instead of sensible discussions on long-term solutions, I’m afraid we have opted for symbolic victories.
The views expressed are personal.