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IPL: Scapegoat of the Drought Crisis

Ayushman Jamwal |News18.com | Updated: April 18, 2016, 6:00 PM IST

As long as I can remember, Maharashtra has faced drought and farmer suicides, highlighting the systemic failure of the state administrations to tackle a recurring problem.

Most of the time, there is a political blame game between the government and the Opposition, who switch roles from time to time, but for the poor farmer in Marathwada, the nefarious politician has many faces.

Not only is there clear apathy towards the thirsty farmer, there is brazen insensitivity as several ministerial bungalows in Maharashtra enjoy free and uninterrupted water supply throughout the year.

However, the media’s eyes have zeroed in on its favorite punching bag - the IPL – for committing the crime of watering cricket grounds for upcoming matches.

Clearly an irrelevant correlation, but a national talking point, a sensational narrative comprised of comparing visuals of drought hit areas with the lush green grounds of cricket stadiums being watered.

This time one of the key custodians of national interest, the judiciary – has fallen for the smear campaign – ordering all IPL matches post April 30 to be played outside the drought hit state, living a fantasy that clear blue water will now flow to the dry lands of Latur from Wankhede stadium.

One thing is clear. The BCCI, the IPL governing council and the Mumbai Cricket Association have not broken any laws. The Maharashtra government has also stated that it couldn’t be seen as driving a sport out of the state just to show solidarity with the people of the drought hit regions. Even though, the courts have several serious cases pending before them, a case with no notion of criminality but high on symbolism caught the judiciary's attention.

Moreover, the High Court's ruling is baffling, especially when the semi-final of the T20 World Cup was held at Wankhede stadium just in March. There were no concerns over water wastage then, with the media keeping its eyes trained on the possibility of India clinching the title again, and the drought crisis has not worsened in just 2 weeks to spark this level of outrage.

It goes against common sense why the Court didn’t just reject the petition. Beyond the ruling, the Court issued irrelevant observations that the IPL only cares about revenues and not people, even asking the BCCI if it will take an undertaking to donate to the Chief Minister's drought relief fund – a clear move to name, shame and bully the cricketing body to 'care'. However, these are questions meant for the government, those responsible for addressing the drought crisis.

The BCCI was neither mandated nor obliged to change the IPL schedule or pay its way out of this controversy. It is not accountable to the people of India, only to the law of the land. Imagine a similar plea against soft drink manufacturers and breweries to shut down their operations over the use of potable water.

Considering the logic of the plaintiff, people don't need soft drinks and beer. Could such a plea have met with success? Imagine the message it would send to the business community and foreign investors as the Centre tries to push its 'Make in India' mission.

The court drama and media coverage has emerged as nothing more than moralistic outrage dragging a usual suspect to the middle of the stage.

It has provided a shield to the state administration deflecting the ire of the media and judiciary. The BJP government is getting away with simply saying it will not provide 'a single litre' of potable water to cricket grounds, as the Marathwada farmer continues to look only to the sky for some relief.

When the executive and the media play with frivolous logic to preach morality, people turn to the judiciary for some semblance of sanity.

This case has proven that even the 'wisdom' of the courts can fall prey to loud and ridiculous narratives, which repeatedly dominate the public sphere. Political parties, advocacy groups and media organisations push a narrative and someone wins, but the poor farmer in Maharashtra still loses.

There is no surge of water headed his way to help him in his hour of need, but the rest can pat themselves on their backs for sticking it to the IPL. In it's ruling, the Bombay High Court said it cannot ignore the drought crisis in Maharashtra, but it must ask itself what has it truly achieved.

First Published: April 16, 2016, 8:03 AM IST

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