Friday, August 22, 2014

The Drought – Some in the drought stricken have never had so much drinking water

I was in Ratmale, Minneriya recently, (  where I try to retreat to at any given opportunity, which latterly due to work-load has been barely once a month.

There is a severe drought there, and farmers who depend on the rain fed Ratmale Tank have NOT been able to cultivate their paddy fields for 3 consecutive seasons, due to the lack of water in the tank to cultivate even half of the village paddy field, that is owned by the different villagers in different proportions, based on inheritance and purchase of other neighbors fields, if they have had a financial emergency.

I therefore took sufficient water with me in bottles not just for my use, but also to give to anyone who so desired. To my surprise, I found a different story. Over the past month or so, various organizations, including the Army, and politicians Charitable Trusts, and other  NGOs and Company Social Responsibility arms, as well as the religious orders, have been donating drinking water in 5ltr and 1½ltr bottles, without any proper overseeing of necessity.

Every house on the main road is flush with water! With the knowledge that some people may pay the system, some organizations, come to the village and distribute tokens to the people who want water first, and then give a certain number of bottles later, on token redemption! That may be a fairer method of distribution, but I do not believe the truly needy who may live some distance from the main road, may receive none, as they are NOT even aware of the said distribution, as people in the village may not have informed them!

As the Government Bureaucracy through the Divisional Secretariats are corrupt, rife with officials in Govt. service taking bribes, and making money on the side at every given opportunity, charities have lost faith in their ability to identify the really needy households and provide the much needed water to them. Theoretically though, they are the best way to manage as they can handle by all donated water coming to one central zone, and then distributed only from them, avoiding the bowsers, and distribution vans coming every ten minutes from different organizations, down the same road.

This reminded me of the Tsunami stories, where people who never owned boats got a dozen to adorn their front yards, as they did not know how to go out to sea.

At the same time those who really lost their boats, were far from the normal channels of donors, who did not go in search of them, but merely provided to those clever enough to pretend to have lost them, whilst many who really lost boats and relatives were too proud to ask for help from anyone.

In my case, I have already spent quite some money, in digging my well a few more feet so the 3 villagers who take drinking water from my well, could have unfettered access to water to quench their thirst during the drought.

To my surprise there were NO takers this time, and no lines like is normal even during periods of plenty, as this is the only drinking water well there is around.

I know people solve their consciences by donating water, but spare a thought to how it is distributed and if the needy really do get the water!   

This windfall to companies that bottle water, suffering from a lean time, with the slowing economy, where the purchase of drinking water is the first to suffer.

They have been the loudest cheer leaders of the drought as they can sell ten times their normal sales, and do not have to incur much sales commissions, as the buyers go in search of them and pay full whack direct from the company as they buy in quantity that the retailers don’t stock and bring their transport along.

Further the money is donated, so they have NO incentive to price shop, and ask for bulk discounts.

Is there a lesson in this? unless you know who really is going to benefit from your donation, and if the person who received really deserved it, don’t give!    

It is unconscionable that the drinking water Mafia, sell a product that no one really needs, but people buy either because they are misinformed about the real benefits of normal tap water. They use the opportunity of a drought to cash in big time, because this water is in sealed containers, as compared with the alternative available from homes, and they know it. 

The local villages were saying ‘we have enough water to drink, but as we were unable to farm our land, we really need some assistance with living until the rains come and water will not satisfy the real needs of hunger. The crop insurance scheme set up to cover such uncertainties has not come up with the payoff, finding one excuse after another why not to honor the promise, from the surcharge of fertilizer.

I was there till three days ago and it rained on every day I was there, it happened the last two times as well, when it rained on my visit to the local's delight! Just ask them if I am fibbing.