Will Leaders Care For Citizens ?

Democracy is a system of governance requiring political leaders to function as trustees to a modern state designed to foster the multi-faceted development of all its inhabitants . The leaders herein are supposed to live and behave not as arrogant masters of the monarchical and  feudal eras but as humble representatives of  people in modern times . They have to remain sensitive to the problems of  citizens and ever active to address them .  But do our political leaderships --- at the Centre or and in the States-- care for such moral and constitutional obligations ?  

Like it or not, the scenario is absolutely grim on this front in India today.  The ideals of our legendary leaders , such as Mahatma Gandhi, B R Ambedkar, Maulana Azad, Deendayal Upadhyaya and E.M.S. Namboodiripad, do not seem to inspire our politicians in general . These politicians would just garland those departed great souls on some special occasions, praise them and then indulge in their own selfish activities.  

The ever-growing gulf between the economic status of our representatives  and that of their elector- masses is the best evidence of the new reality . The leaders today seem to be too obsessed with their own material benefits and elitist lifestyles to imagine what the masses are facing in their day to day life.  Presently, citizens are facing untold miseries in our drought –hit  states, including  Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh . But our leaders seem to have cared little .  

The good news is our judiciary has taken note of the kind of insensitivity that has infected our leaderships today. A couple of days back, our Supreme Court slammed (http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/haryana-and-gujarat-faulted-for-rain-figures/article8448566.ece) the Gujarat and Haryana governments for “hazy” presentation of facts and outdated charts on rainfall data in a hearing on the delay in declaration of drought and provision of urgent relief to thousands of lives in parched areas across the country .   

During  the hearing on a petition filed by  NGO Swaraj Abhiyan, an Apex Court Bench lamented : “Is this the kind of seriousness you show as your people are dying of drought? This hearing is not about some picnic you are having in Haryana.” When counsel apologized,  the Bench  said : “You are sorry? You should be sorry for your people. They will die.”   

The Bench questioned why Haryana had passed on to the Apex Court figures about canal construction which took place in 2013-14 and agricultural yield from 2014-15 when the Court wanted the latest rainfall data in the State. It  asked : “What are we supposed to do with all this? Where are the rainfall figures? Are these papers something you randomly found in your office and filed here? In all districts, rainfall is in the minus... that means there was no rainfall in Haryana.”  The Bench asked why the State was in no hurry to declare drought.

In another hearing in a  Public Interest Litigation filed by the Mumbai-based Loksatta Movement ,   the Bombay High Court   observed (http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/why-hold-ipl-in-droughthit-maharashtra-hc/article8443243.ece) the Indian Premier League matches should ideally be shifted elsewhere  where there is no water crisis. The Court rapped  the BCCI and the cricket associations in Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra over any water wastage when the State is reeling under severe drought. It said , “ Ultimately, it is the government’s responsibility to do something about this [water wastage] and impose some kind of restraint….   How can you [the cricket associations and the BCCI] waste water like this? People are more important or your IPL matches? You know what the condition is in Maharashtra.”  

I hope our decision makers will appreciate the spirit of the  Courts’ observations and act accordingly. Our Constitution demands the government to  accord top priority to  the welfare of citizens  in its agenda . The Courts’ observations are in conformity with this humanitarian demand  . It is a cruel joke indeed that  the League matches are being played in Maharashtra   when the state is said to be passing through its worst drought in a century. According to reports, the state’s  three stadia–at Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur–would be using around six million litres of water for  the League’s proposed 20 matches. The stadia managers have put in service private tankers to draw water from  wells to water their pitch and grass daily.

I would strongly emphasize our government must reach first its citizens who are dying for water . Cricket  can wait. Invaluable life won’t . Water is life . It is good to learn that the  government has now  sent a water train carrying five lakh liters of water to drought- hit Latur in Maharashtra . It is working hard  to complete the 2,700-metre supply line to bring water from the railways' filter house to the railway yard.

These steps are belated but welcome. They must go on. It would have been far more meaningful if such efforts had been made early. Now the government must extend this course of action to meet the present water crisis also in other drought-hit  areas in India . Besides, the government must make appropriate agricultural policies and strategies for a permanent solution to the occasional drought in the country .