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The politics of drought

As 7,000 villages face drought-like situation, politicians’ prime focus is to take pot shots at each other.

mumbai Updated: May 04, 2012 01:46 IST
HT Correspondent

With over 7,000 villages facing a drought-like situation, politicians in the state are predictably using this opportunity to take pot shots at each other over inadequate relief measures.

It started with Union Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar expressing dismay at the governor, K Sankaranarayanan, for not touring the crisis-affected districts before announcing his water allocation budget for the year.

Since Pawar’s jibes to the governor, everyone from Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi to Sena’s third generation leader Aditya Thackeray have undertaken tours in the scarcity-hit districts.

On the tours, undertaken in the company of the media, there have been appropriate barbs to rivals for failing the parched districts. Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray who is on the road visiting affected villages, said on Wednesday that the ruling alliance was apathetic, and was treating farmers and commoners like animals.

Thackeray’s nemesis, his cousin Raj, chief of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) on Wednesday took the opportunity to ridicule Gandhi’s visit to Satara saying it had not benefited any one. He also slammed the proposed tour of legislators to Europe saying they should focus on aiding scarcity-relief measures, instead of flying off to cooler destinations.

As a retort, Congress state party president, Manickrao Thakre on Friday termed Thackeray’s statement as a means to get cheap publicity.

In all this mud-slinging by politicians, experts say the larger picture is forgotten.

Noted economist and former member of the state planning board, Professor H M Desarda has termed the current crisis as ‘politician-made’. He blamed politicians for doing little to manage water resources better and instead aiding rampant land grab that had reduced the state’s tree cover and agricultural lands.

“There is tremendous soil erosion, estimated to be nearly a billion tonnes annually over the state’s geographical area,, because of this conversion. This is the root cause of water scarcity,’’ said Desarda.

Such comments ring true in the light of the cabinet meeting held on Thursday where ministers spent an hour slamming their own government for poor relief work. In this criticism, the suggestion made to grant Rs 10 crore to the 11 worst-affected talukas to create watershed development programmes, considered as approved by ministers, was kept hanging by the administration.

“There was a discussion on this but the proposal is not yet concrete. We will discuss it further in the coming cabinet,” said Patangrao Kadam, relief and rehabilitation minister. “This drought-like situation is not as serious as earlier droughts, like the one in 1972. It is being played up by the media. There is severe water scarcity in some pockets of the state,” he added.