Lava-ka-Baas: The blame game

When one contests the dominant, it is of utmost importance that all actions and their outcome be above doubt. There isn't the faintest margin of error. There cannot be misfortune. The villages of Alwar district have known this for a long time. For about two decades now, they have got help from Tarun Bharat Sangh (TBS), a voluntary group. TBS learnt in its salad days in the villages that the region had a rich tradition of building earthen check-dams called johads to harvest rainwater. So TBS mobilised and supported village communities, identified skilled (but unrecognised) johad engineers and nurtured them. The result, as has now been widely studied and appreciated, was an economic miracle that transformed the region

 
Last Updated: Sunday 07 June 2015

-- WHEN one contests the dominant, it is of utmost importance that all actions and their outcome be above doubt. There isn't the faintest margin of error. There cannot be misfortune. The villages of Alwar district have known this for a long time. For about two decades now, they have got help from Tarun Bharat Sangh (TBS), a voluntary group. TBS learnt in its salad days in the villages that the region had a rich tradition of building earthen check-dams called johads to harvest rainwater. So TBS mobilised and supported village communities, identified skilled (but unrecognised) johad engineers and nurtured them. The result, as has now been widely studied and appreciated, was an economic miracle that transformed the region.

But from the very beginning, TBS associates encountered only hostility from government agencies. The Indian government likes only high-input solutions beyond villagers' means. Nowhere was this more obvious than in the case of the johad built at village Lava-ka-Baas in 2001.

The state irrigation department declared the structure unsafe and illegal, passing orders for its demolition. It took a team of eminent people and an engineering professor -- and a media blitz -- to prevent the demolition. So, when the johad succumbed to a night of unusually high rain and a flood of water released by poorly constructed structures upstream, the government went to town reminding everybody that its department had declared it unsafe. It didn't bother to remind the people that TBS and the village were not allowed to carry out measures to make the check-dam strong enough to resist an unprecedented downpour. The fact that a concrete dam built by the department last year in a neighbouring tehsil got breached 20 days before the Lava-ka-Baas johad (after about less than half the rainfall that washed off the johad) was lost as well.

The entire incident should be taken out of the blame-game it is wallowing in at the moment. The Lava-ka-Baas johad broke. Such misfortunes do occur. It would be better for TBS to think of the facts. They and the villages of Alwar must take criticism in their stride and get back to their drawing boards. There is harder work ahead. This is no longer their struggle only. The check-dam is the symbol of millions -- a symbol of freedom and joy of living. We cannot let some bad words wash it away.

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