Bihar has opened the floodgates after heavy rain in Nepal and it is a grave situation the eastern State faces. The severe floods in Bihar used to be an annual calamity for decades until Mr. Nitish Kumar became Chief Minister and put up sand bags and huge boulders to stem the regular floods generated a regular deluge. It was a great effort and in a few years, one heard less of the Kosi river playing havoc with northern Bihar.
Similarly Assam, in the north-east is also facing one of the worst floods even as the monsoon has revived in Delhi on July 15 afternoon, but will the El Nino bring back the severe dry spell. The El Nino will take a month to fade out, according to the weather man.
In view of this El Nino, which is quite a regular suffering for India, what is the crying need of the hour of the nation at this time of the year? The monsoon has been weakened by El Nino factor. It will take a month or more to peter out, says the weather man. Will the monsoon build up around Independence Day in the middle of August or will it come sooner? Negative and strong global factors are at work as well, thanks to worldwide climatic factors, including heat waves and excessive pollution even in Europe and North and Latin America.
The impact of the monsoon, when it comes or is revived, will be matchless in soaking the country. Melting snows may create streams through big and small sprouts in the middle of mountains, they bring streams, waterfalls and start rivers or keep them flowing. But the snows are not yet melting enough to feed streams and waterfalls and even rivers. Reservoirs have dried up by the hundreds. Millions of Indians fight for life in this bleak scenario even as U.P. is having rains.
The snow feed cannot match the beauty and grandeur of the skies opening up with great showers to soak the landmass or the hinterland of India. Showers and melting snows are life giving, even reviving languishing life with a breath of fresh air and must work in concert rather than silence. Delhi, Chennai and other parts of South India and North-Western India have people scanning the skies with unrealized hopes. The Paani Mission has been announced at this critical time.
The rains of the monsoon are incomparable and can be felt in their goodness instantly, but when will they arrive, even though heavy showers do play havoc and cause floods as well as wash away large swathes of the land; that is the negative aspect of it; but just now the positivity of the rain is the crying need of at least a billion Indians, 65 to 70 per cent of them. The remaining 25 to 35 per cent of the land mass and its rivers have had or are in the process of getting enough rain as it gives fillip to all kinds of life, being so vital. The rains are time-bound at this time of the year and also occur at other times, according to the processes of nature that nourish the land; and the result is or should be flourishing fulfilment of needs of all that is alive.
The weather man promises rain almost every day. His most sophisticated equipment sees the clouds in the sky, but foul air generated by man and animal dries them up all. The coastal areas after high tide in Mumbai are beginning to miss the waves that lash man-made sea walls or beaches. So intense and dry is the air in large parts, thanks to the billions of machines, including motor vehicles, railways, ships and air ships, power plants, huge factories that their fumes suck up all the clean air and spew more foul air by the hour. By evening, the trees try to clean up the air, but they have also been cut by the billion, leaving the populace to fend for itself. Come nightfall, there is a slight revival at some places, but not everywhere. It is the searing heat wave for several areas round the clock.
The monsoon officially started five weeks before July 15, but for the present, parched India remains parched, with its thirst un-slaked and waiting with hope, at times hopelessly for the bounty from the sky. When and why is it not materializing? Tired and dry eyes look for it day and night, but in very large parts of India, it has yet to arrive or reappear; in the process starved and thirsty lives by the thousand or tens of thousands are being lost. What a grave misfortune?
The new monsoon of this year is possibly one of the driest so far in Indian history. There have been droughts galore in centuries gone by; there have been famines galore; a new famine is staring India in the face. It is true that the food reserves or cold storages have huge capacities to feed 1.3 billion people; but can any government or charities feed 25 per cent of the population, no matter even if they are overflowing with reserves? Transporting those surpluses and delivering food, cooked or uncooked, is a Herculean endeavour and needs a very large labour force and huge transportation capacities. That is the crux of the matter.
Yet the better off among us have wealth enough for unrestricted pleasure or tainted fun and games, wasteful food and other habits, yet not self-destructive.
Delhi is a classic case of waste of scarce water as are many other cities. Yet Arvind Kejriwal gives away this scarce commodity of water to those perceived as poor or the Jal Board staff free water because they own the water; it is sinful politics. Nobody should be entitled to free water. Will the local government wake up to this reality?
Yet there is a lot of water that is cleaned by reverse osmosis or desalination or RO, which is wasteful and takes away good content of the basic water and is unhealthy. Should the government take a policy decision to curb the RO process except where necessary?
In spite of the severe water scarcity, India is not regarded as over-populated. In 25 years India’s population could exceed China’s and reach 2 billion. Although China has abolished the one child per family rule because of shortages of labour and children, India could perhaps adopt the norm of two children per family to balance its requirements.
The Indian youth dividend may be commendable because the first world countries are seeing an overall drop in populations and late marriages or no marriages among many. That way India could genuinely boast of being oriented towards the youth dividend, particularly if education, health care and skills development are modernized. That is the road to take to make India great and a genuine force for the good of humanity.
Lalit Sethi is a Journalist of long standing and a commentator on Political and Social Issues.