Many states in India are reeling under severe drought conditions due to rain failure in past two years.Unfortunately, this is not the first time we are facing this situation.Quite evidently,this shows that agriculture sector has not attracted its due attention.
Drought is not just an economic problem.It affects every aspect of sufferer’s life.For example,media reports say that people in drought-affected regions are saving money not just for food,clothing etc but also for water.Poor are begging for water.Some are postponing surgery/medical treatment while many others are marrying their daughters prematurely.This is because child marriage cuts cost on marriage and parents can migrate to cities for livelihood without worrying about their daughters’ safety.Besides this,lack of water has increased social strife.I guess untouchables will be the worst sufferers when community resources deplete one after the another.
Drought also leads to the diversion of national resources.For example,thousands of tankers and “water-trains” are using diesel,which is mainly an imported commodity.Some may argue that this is what tankers are meant for and it is not a diversion of resources.But I would like to differ.If we can use simple techniques like rainwater harvesting, we can avoid many tankers.
This brings us to the important point ie; how to tackle such situations?
Firstly,given the predictability and frequency of this disaster,we need a robust contingency plan at the district,division and state level.This means when IMD declares possible drought condition,district and states administration should have a ready-made action plan which includes getting spare water from ancillary sources,cutting supplies to non-essential services like breweries,swimming pools etc.Besides this, there has to be massive public awareness campaign about contingency steps being taken.Notorious tanker mafias have to be dealt with stringently.
Secondly,in the long term strategy,we have to rely on traditional water harvesting practices and rejuvenate old water containing structures.MGNREGA sought to create community assets in this regard,but unfortunately it hasn’t worked as planned.In fact,the most fundamental issue underlying most of the serious problems plaguing our country is due to poor implementation of good policies.
Many more steps can be suggested,but the most important factor that can alter the landscape is probably political will and robust administration.