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People of the lesser God

Maharashtra was experiencing its worst drought in four decades, with 16 of the 35 districts seriously afflicted and roughly 20 million people affected.

People were forced to travel long distances to find water, or there were water tankers that would stop at nearby junctions to provide water. When the water tankers started supplying water, there would be arguments and fights over who got the water or who got one bucket extra. Chaos ensued. There was no water to drink, let alone bathe with. The underprivileged did not get any water from tankers, even if they were willing to pay. Drought gives the perfect excuse to monopolise the elixir of life, water, and this was done by the tanker mafia.

Access to water became one of the most essential variables in migration, and it remains the most important factor in urban migration. These adversities can bring out the best or the worst in people; in places like Jalna, they brought out the worst.

People would collect water from leaking municipal pipelines to take care of their drinking, cooking, and washing needs. The spray from the leaking water pipe would be considered a bath. Once the pipelines were repaired, they were broken again as there was no other source of water. And these pipes carry water to the cities so the swimming pools, apartment complexes, and privileged activities do not get disturbed. The priorities of the state government seemed a bit misplaced.

According to the National Water Policy, in times of scarcity, water must be first given for drinking, then agriculture, and finally to projects and industries. Agriculture was getting its share, but for a different set of crops, sugarcane, which was not helping the cause,

It is interesting that Maharashtra has the largest number of dams and canals in the country and is the second-highest producer of sugar in the country. Most of the sugar factories and sugarcane farms are situated in drought-prone regions.

Farmers did not have any source of income, either from farming or livestock. They were forced to sell their cattle as they could not afford to buy any fodder, something that was plentiful on their own farms. The drought has forced these farmers to buy fodder.

Drought brings in an entire ecosystem of doom. The farmers did not have enough water to irrigate their lands; another crop failure forced them to drill another bore well and fall prey to the moneylenders from whom they borrowed money at high rates of interest. You’ll surely know what direction the farmer's story is going to take. A calamity.

When a politician was questioned by the farmers as to why there was no water in the dams, his response was, "What should I do? Should I piss in the dams?”. Quite empathetic I must say.

The areas covered included Jalna, Beed, Osmanabad, Aurangabad in Marathwada, parts of Satara, Sangli, Ahmednagar, and Solapur, which provide a good picture of the lives of people in distress who would walk miles to get drinking water, sugarcane fields and sugar factories in arid regions that consume a lot of water, and alcohol industries that use as much water as several villages.

In all of the farmers, government, and tanker mafia tales, we tend to forget our future. The children. They are out to fetch and store water when they must be in school, hoping to learn how to better manage water.

This was totally a man-made disaster, and I say man-made being gender-specific.

Everyone is created equal, and some are more equal than others when it comes to accessing natural resources. These photographs clearly show who are the children of the lesser God and who plays GOD.

The areas that were covered were Jalna, Beed, Osmanabad, Aurangabad in Marathwada, parts of Satara, Sangli, Ahmednagar, and Solapur, which gave us a good picture of the lives of the people in distress who’d walk miles to fetch drinking water, the sugarcane fields and sugar factories that are guzzling the water, and the alcohol plant that requires the same amount of water as several villages.

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