By Smita Prakash
New Delhi [India], May 18 (ANI): In his last election rally of 2019 Narendra Modi gave an indication as to what his priority will be in his second term if his party is elected back to power. If Modi shocked the nation from Red Fort on August 15, 2014, by speaking about Indians not keeping their surroundings clean and open defecation a matter of shame and then launching the pan Indian Swachh Bharat mission, in his second term it will be water management that will be his prime focus.
In Madhya Pradesh's Khargone on the afternoon of May 17th, Modi said, "Fifty years ago, Lohia told [former Prime Minister] Jawaharlal Nehru that the most important issues facing women were water and sanitation...I am fulfilling Lohia's wish. After constructing toilets and giving dignity to women, I will focus my next term on ensuring clean drinking water."
BJP's manifesto has promised the setting up of a unified Ministry of Water to end the water woes of the country. From April to July every year the situation in at least eight states in the country is grim. The Centre issued a drought advisory to Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Tamil Nadu, asking them to use water judiciously in the coming weeks as water storage in dams dropped to a critical level. With almost all of rural India depending on monsoon rain for agriculture and domestic purpose, there is a desperate need for water management on a war footing.
Whether it is a political ploy or a genuine concern for women, the BJP has been sensitive enough to understand that it is a woman's task to provide water for the family for domestic use. In hundreds of villages in India, women have to walk several miles a day to carry on their heads two pots of water. This water is used for cooking and cleaning for a family of four or eight persons. And they have to fetch this every day, regardless of aches and pains or poor health. Girls drop out of school because the chore of bringing home water from a pond or well is thrusted on them when they are old enough to carry two pots of water on their head. By promising piped water supply to all homes by 2014, the BJP would have delivered on something that no politician has promised, let alone delivered.
If Modi in his second term achieves this, in addition to augmenting Swachh Bharat, Ujwala Yojana and Beti Bachao Beti Padhao he would have secured the confidence of at least 50 percent of the electorate - women voters.
Currently, management of water resources is fragmented between six or seven ministries, a centralised system would plug loopholes and even put the river clean up missions in the country on track. Ganga clean up action was Modi's commitment to his constituency and electorate but in the past five years things have not moved in the pace that he had envisioned. Hundreds of crores set-aside for the Namami Gange plan lie unspent. Almost 400 million people's lives depend on Ganga water. If Modi can actually get a team to focus on cleaning up the river, manage it in such a manner that the water is piped into every home in the region in the next two or three years, it would mean a sure shot electoral victory as well as a huge improvement in the lives of millions who have only heard or seen in Bollywood movies of water on demand.
It is estimated that 200,000 Indians die every year due to inadequate access to safe water. It is a statistic that should shame any Prime Minister-to-be into promising that this would be his or her prime focus. But at the end of campaign for 2019 you would have seen that from saving the Constitution to restoring regional pride, many promises were made but providing water to every home wasn't talked about. The elite who aspire to be lawmakers are either unaware what a burden it is for common Indians to get clean water on a regular basis or they don't promise what they cannot deliver. 163 million of India's population of 1.3 billion are silent in their suffering.
Whatever the outcome of this election, whether it is Modi as Prime Minister or anyone else, the promise made by him, even though it is a reiteration of what Lohia told Nehru five decades ago, should become the agenda of any sensible Prime Minister. (ANI)
Water management to be Modi's priority if NDA is re-elected
Updated: May 18, 2019 19:20 IST
By Smita Prakash