This is the most farmer-unfriendly govt in independent India : Swaraj Abhiyan's co-founder Yogendra Yadav on the drought situation in India,
Updated on: 07 Jun 2016
Back from a walk through drought-affected parts of the country, Yogendra Yadav, political scientist and co-founder of non-profit Swaraj Abhiyan, speaks on state compliance of Supreme Court orders, a booming private water market in Marathwada, and why farmer movements are weakest at a time when agrarian distress is at its peak. Edited excerpts from an interview:
You just came back from a trip to Bundelkhand and Marathwada. What is the situation there?
It would be trite to say that it's shocking. In the face of a clearly unfolding tragedy, what is shocking is the business-as-usual attitude of everyone—the state, of the influential sections of society and in some ways the national media. We have cognitive tools to recognize famine and, therefore, unfortunately till it reaches that point, it doesn't look serious enough. And there are several steps from drought to famine. And different parts that we visited are at different steps of that ladder. In terms of drinking water, there is no doubt that Marathwada (in Maharashtra) has crossed the red line. In terms of water and fodder for animals, there is no doubt that Bundelkhand (spread across Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh) has crossed the red line. Livestock are dying, in large numbers which nobody is even trying to estimate.
But if you ask me, "are human beings dying of hunger?" Perhaps not. There are isolated reports, but it would definitely be premature or sensational to say that there are starvation deaths. The question we should be asking is: should we not be doing something before we get reports of starvation deaths?
Last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met chief ministers of each drought-affected state separately. Did that translate into actions on the ground?
That really is a question. PM meeting CMs is a good idea. If you go by disaster management manuals, all these discussions should have taken place in the months of October and November (last year). I think there is insufficient recognition of the crisis we are going through. This is not the beginning of the possibility of a drought, where you can hold meetings and discuss plans. This requires nothing short of emergency war-footing response.