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Will the Bombay HC order really help drought-hit Maharashtra?

Nihar Gokhale | Updated on: 14 April 2016, 15:46 IST
Court order
  • Bombay HC cancels all IPL matches in Maharashtra after 30 April
  • This was in response to the intense drought that the state is suffering from 
  • More in the story
  • What real difference will this make?
  • How important is the HC decision?
  • The Bombay High Court's order cancelling all Indian Premier League matches in Maharashtra after 30 April has been hailed as a victory for the people of the state.

    Large parts of Maharashtra are reeling under a crippling drought after two consecutive failed monsoons. With the summer approaching, the water crisis will only intensify.

    The HC order will lead to the cancellation of 13 matches in the state, while seven more will take place by 30 April. The cancelled matches were to be held in Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur -- cities facing water scarcity and surrounded by drought-hit rural areas. 

    Read: IPL games can be shifted. But it's BCCI's attitude that needs a paradigm shift

    Hundreds of farmers have committed suicide because of crop losses, while water conflicts have erupted. Prohibitory orders have been imposed in towns like Latur around water sources.

    Not surprisingly, the HC order has been met with cheer.

    But critics are wondering whether banning the IPL has any impact on the ground for the drought-hit state. Many opinion pieces that appeared before the HC decision were skeptical about banning IPL.

    What is the importance of the High Court decision?

    Experts say that more than the actual water being saved, the decision sends a message about the need to judiciously use water, especially in Maharashtra.

    "Maharashtra is facing a very grave crisis, it is unprecedented and the worst the state has ever faced. In such a situation, any non-efficient use of water is to be reduced. And it is not just about Marathwada. There are tribals living near the Middle Vaitarna dam - which supplies water to Mumbai - who are running out of water. The court has raised the issue of proper use of available water," said Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of South Asian Network for Dams, Rivers and People.

    The High Court order also highlights the state government's failure to take tough decisions about water use during a time of water crisis.

    The HC order means that 13 matches will be cancelled in the state, but 7 more will take place by 30 April

    "While shifting the location of a few matches alone cannot solve the crisis, at the same time it highlights the crisis and how we can see no transparent plan to solve it" says Depinder Kapur, national coordinator, India Water and Sanitation Forum.

    "The court should have also asked on what basis the government gave permission to the IPL. Then only you can say what water policy in Maharashtra exists that governs water allocations. When there are so many people coming for the matches, the issue goes much beyond how much water the pitch and ground are using," Thakkar said.

    Also read- Drought & development: why Maharashtra is fast running out of water

    There's also an opinion that the court should expand the domain of its judgement to include other wasteful uses of water in the state, and not just the IPL, such as sugarcane cultivation.

    "There is a large area under sugarcane cultivation, which perhaps uses much more water than the IPL matches. The High Court's decision does not address how to cut down such uses of water in the state," Kapur said.

    "The court should go beyond the IPL and address the question of appropriate use of available water. This applies to sugarcane cultivation, 5 star hotels, the tanker mafia, and so on," Thakkar said.

    Nevertheless, banning IPL matches is an important symbolic gesture, according to Pradeep Purandare, a water activist from Aurangabad and retired associate professor at the Land and Water Management Institute.

    "When there was a drought in Australia, the parliament shut the fountain in its premises. It was a message to save water. When such a measure is taken we can always ask how much water will actually be saved because of it. But the real point is the kind of values being promoted by using water for a certain activity," Purandare said.

    Read more- Ground report: Drought-stricken Marathwada limps from bad to worse

    "It is a moral question... while we are not opposing IPL per se. We need to ask questions about the kind of lifestyles that are promoted through it, and not simply how much water IPL uses," Purandare added.

    "The decision is symbolic but important. It puts accountability on the government to have an action plan to deal with the drought. The state government is morally restrained from organising an extravaganza," Kapur said.

    Edited by Anna Verghese

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    First published: 14 April 2016, 15:46 IST
    Nihar Gokhale @nihargokhale

    Nihar is a reporter with Catch, writing about the environment, water, and other public policy matters. He wrote about stock markets for a business daily before pursuing an interdisciplinary Master's degree in environmental and ecological economics. He likes listening to classical, folk and jazz music and dreams of learning to play the saxophone.