Pen Drive column: Troubled waters

Chennai: What water scarcity? This seems to be the reaction of the powers that be in Tamilnadu.

First it was Municipal Administration Minister S P Velumani who said a couple of days ago there was no water crisis in Chennai.

This news was juxtaposed in all media with news about hotels shutting down, lodges asking their guests to vacate and images of people running hither and thither with the ubiquitous plastic pot for that elusive drop of water and staging protests for not getting it. The Minister called it ‘manufactured news’.

Yesterday, it was the turn of Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami to slam people who were talking about, according to him, the non-existent water scarcity. He made it seem it was all in the head of mediapersons. A local problem was being blown out of proportion, he said dismissively.

Are these people for real? People of Tamilnadu are literally killing each other for water in the State. These two politicians are the ones refusing to look beyond their Greenways Road houses which do not see water scarcity or power cuts.

This brings to mind a famous American cartoon. It shows then US president Ronald Reagan sitting on a boat with the American people. There is a huge shark behind them in the form of inflation. But the president’s balloon says, “If you don’t look at, it will go away.”

That seems to be the attitude of Palaniswami and Velumani – if media did not report it, it would simply not be there.

Please step out of the air-conditioned comfort of your offices, homes and cars – it is not enough to do it just during election campaigns – now, and see for yourself the sufferings of the people. Metro pumps have run dry. Most public borewell pumps have dried up. People look to the government to supply water for their everyday needs.

The previous times there was severe drought, there was some positive action from the existing governments. They set up more public borewell pumps, installed public tanks to distribute water… even brought water in rail wagons to Chennai. Now, all we hear is still talk of whether water in quarries can be used, and not action on the ground.

The first step to tackle a problem, say experts, is to accept that it exists. If the government slips on this vital component of problem-solving, how is it going to help tackle the water crisis? As they seem blinkered, they will have to take the media word for the fact that it exists and work on it.