By Akhil Oka:
IPL and the BCCI have been under the lens of the judiciary since the last few years. The 2013 spot-fixing scandal can be effectively considered to be the starting point of the troubles for the richest cricketing body in the world. Amidst all this, a recent petition filed in the Bombay High Court has topped the headlines. An order passed earlier this week has mandated shifting all IPL matches after 30th April outside Maharashtra. This has divided experts, intellectuals, cricketers and the common man to some extent. Is the decision populist as many commentators have called it or is it a much-needed crackdown on the wastage of water?
We need to clarify certain matters before commenting on the issue. Firstly, the order explicitly states that the scope of the PIL in question is being expanded to cover other entertainment avenues and not just IPL. That this measure cannot alone mitigate the severe drought crisis has been accepted by the Court. Thus, those analysts calling the judgment narrow-minded should hold their horses as of now. Even if this PIL succeeds in increasing the national media coverage of the drought in Maharashtra, I welcome this as a positive development. For, without awareness, we cannot even look for solutions.
One of the propositions states that stadiums will obviously require water, and merely shifting these matches will not help those living in parched areas and will decidedly not solve the ever looming issue of water crisis. Other affected areas reserve the same right to water as Maharashtra, and so, it is unfair to suggest the shifting of matches to these locations. The home advantage theory of some of the IPL franchises does not hold ground as it is IPL itself which has broken fixed regional affiliations! Furthermore, the broadcast revenue will ensure that financial losses won’t be a major issue.
It is true that water not used for the games will hardly be transferred to suffering people in Marathwada, much like money transfer operation. The crisis is not just limited to Marathwada alone but districts all over Maharashtra. Even parts of Mumbai city suffers from water scarcity. The purpose thus, will be much better served even if this water is diverted to the common man in slums, suburbs and other parts of the city and its outskirts.
Another exercise, which has started, is to sermonize the people in Marathwada about what they should not do, i.e., not growing sugarcane. All said and done, the onus of controlling this ultimately lies not with the layman, but with the politicians who have tremendous stakes in these units as well as IPL. So, it was obligatory on their part to act before the need of third-party intervention arose. What makes this advice sound a little hollow, however, is that there has been a strange silence when it comes to pointing out discrepancies in cities like Mumbai on the continuous increase of FSI, legalization of illegal buildings etc.
If we look at the larger picture around this ongoing debate, it is representative of the kind of apathy which all of us have developed for our fellow citizens living away from the famed mainstream. On one hand, we have celebrations costing crores of rupees, cheering for ‘development’; and on the other side, people are begging for basic necessities. We call ourselves a superpower, but in 2016, we have a cruel irony that the common man has to depend on a water train for survival!
The struggle for equitable distribution of resources, i.e., water, in this case, is the real crux of the matter. This might be unfortunate for the IPL franchise, but a strong precedent is being set. It is a much-welcomed counter to the growing notion which many people get enamored by – pay a fine or donate money and get away with a clean slate.
The recent Art of Living Festival symbolizes this very attitude. In reality, we should not need the Courts or the State to order us to show sensitivity. It is a moral notion, which should come from within. So, while there is no doubt that we need better water management for future, this order is nevertheless reminiscent of the fact that someone does care!