Friday, April 12, 2013


Conceded water is a scarce commodity on which future wars are going to be fought but using this scarce material for enriching the pockets of large industry players is really reprehensible. This is what is happening in India at present. Look at the situation in Maharashtra where a shameless Minister, after diverting millions of liters of water meant for irrigation from dams built with pubic money to the sugar mills, wineries and distilleries, that too through dedicated pipe lines extending to 300 km installed at government expense! On top of it he had the cheek to mock at the farmers who demanded water by asking them whether he should urinate into the dams for replenishing the water in them! No wonder the state of Maharashtra has the dubious distinction of becoming the capital of farmer suicides!
India will be condemned as a country with least sensitivity to the sufferings of its citizens because of its elitist policy which always put he needs of the rich and the influential above the interests of its common man. Water use policy pursued by many states gives priority to industry while drinking water and irrigation get lower priority. Why this paranoid is a big mystery though one can guess that the most politicians are in league with industry captains with liberal financial support for their elections which are becoming more and expensive day by day! By any stretch of imagination GOI cannot be said to be starved of funds if one looks at the profligacy in spending on various populist schemes with very little asset building potential. As for farmers, the backbone of India's food security, they are in a blind, caught between the deep sea and the devil, no where to go but commit suicide. It is a miracle that India is still one of the top food producing nations of the world! Why? The reason is not far to seek. Do the farmers have any choice at all as to whether he should grow some thing to sustain himself or leave the land fallow which is a right recipe for ruination.  But for the rains with which the country is blessed with most of the times, the food situation would have been a different story.   
Coming to water which is a natural source abundantly available in this planet who has the right to sell it and make money? One can understand if water is to be processed using costly equipment like Reverse Osmosis or distillation involving some expenditure which works out to a few paise per liter and charging nominally for this may be justifiable. But how can the industry justify selling the water in a country like India at a price which ranges from Rs 20 per liter? Is it not exploitation of the helpless situation under which the people live? Shirking of responsibility of good governance by practically every civic agency in the country has led to massive scarcity of drinking water in the country and the citizens with grave fear about water borne diseases like jaundice  are forced to buy the exorbitantly priced bottled water from the "water shylocks" ruling the roost, to protect the lives of themselves and their families with the government looking happily from the sidelines!
It was not long ago that a multi national company in Kerala had to wind up its business there because of severe over exploitation of the local water resources depriving the local population of this precious life sustaining material. No lesson seems to have been learned from this episode and water continues to be misappropriated by the industry with the connivance of the bureaucracy and politicians. It is true that when governments invite investors, domestic as well as global, to invest in the country, they have a duty to ensure industry friendly atmosphere and workable environment for setting up processing plants. Where were the governments during the last 3 decades when urgent action was required to be taken to establish infrastructural facilities for agriculture, industry and the citizens? In stead of splurging billions of rupees on populist schemes, the same should have been invested on projects on drinking water, irrigation, power generation, roads, railways and ports on a war footing. What is happening now is nothing but a fire fighting operation which may turn out to be too late and to little.
While multinational companies can be faulted for starving the country of water to some extent, how about the desi companies who also are indulging in exploitation of scarce water for profiteering? There are thousands of water bottling units in the country flourishing, especially in urban areas where the so called protected water supply system is a sham with no sensible citizen trusting its safety. Governments must be held responsible in making water a commercial commodity due to their lethargy, inefficiency and inaction in providing the population with safe drinking water and thus shirked the responsibility cast on them.
Is it not a tragedy that even a swadeshi company like Tatas could not resist the temptation to make a fast buck through exploitation of consumer helplessness, if recent reports are to be believed of their plans to invest in packaged water industry?  This industrial giant spanning the country is joining one of the MNCs to set up a joint venture for marketing purified water for the domestic market! The new company seems to be planning to launch its own brand of bottled water soon with franchising as an option to spread their tentacles and gobble up a significant market share in bottled water segment, estimated to be valued at Rs 2000 crore. According to Tatas the market for water is under-penetrated and and is expected to grow at about 20 per cent CAGR per annum in the country.The moot question is whether this domestic conglomerate can be faulted for falling to the temptation of capitalizing on the water scarcity in the country? Probably the enormous annual returns exceeding 100% of the investment may be too attractive to be ignored though it would be at the expense of their conscience!

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