Rain check

The column width dedicated to rain in the mainstream print media has hit an all-time high. A few days ago, television news reporters with that special ability to capture (and re-create) frenzy planted themselves on Kerala's beaches, not chasing a vacationing prime minister but waiting for the monsoon. Urban India and its conscious keepers in the media have discovered rain, finally. Welcome. It took the worst drought in recent memory -- and the cataclysmic inability of the media to relegate the suffering of millions to the margins of tv news channels -- for this change in consciousness

 
Published: Monday 30 June 2003

-- the column width dedicated to rain in the mainstream print media has hit an all-time high. A few days ago, tv news reporters with that special ability to capture (and re-create) frenzy planted themselves on Kerala's beaches, not chasing a vacationing prime minister but waiting for the monsoon. Urban India and its conscious keepers in the media have discovered rain, finally. Welcome.

It took the worst drought in recent memory -- and the cataclysmic inability of the media to relegate the suffering of millions to the margins of tv news channels -- for this change in consciousness. Fact is, the entire nation along the Kashmir-Kanyakumari axis is awaiting the monsoon. Elections are due in some of the largest states of India and the drought is likely to rain on several political careers. Cities drunk on tapwater and the political clout to tap water from neighbouring areas are looking at the sky, much as Indian farmers. Helplessness has seldom been such a cue to national integration. This newfound humility has a lot of creative energy. As any of India's thousands of unrecognised rural engineers will tell, this is a season to act, not just celebrate. In this subcontinent, the saving-up has to be done on the days it rains. Civil society's initial task -- to remind India that it has depended on rain for centuries, which is not likely to change anytime soon -- is close to accomplishment.

The task now is to use this consciousness of rain to solve water scarcity. There is already a perceptible shift in drought relief work. Rajasthan, for example, used the drought relief aid to work on 100,000 water harvesting structures, instead of just building more roads. The central problem in catching water effectively is that the catchment areas of waterbodies, their very lifelines, have been put to other land uses. Farms, housing societies, or institutes. The present concern for rain has to translate into a concern and planning for catchment areas, for land management. That is when the issue is likely to get most political. The real job is to be able to hold the downpour -- of water and this newfound consciousness. That's what the media needs to focus now. For the time being, let's hope for the clouds to gather and burst.

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.