The Human Rights Forum (HRF) calls upon the government to bring about a comprehensive ‘Drought Relief Code’. This statutory drought code should encompass measures that must be implemented towards effective drought relief and mitigation. The duties of the State to the people affected by drought and the rights and entitlements of those who suffer from drought must be codified in this law. Such a code is imperative because governments continue to exhibit adhocism and tokenism in the matter of relief towards the drought-hit.
HRF surveys in several districts during April-May this year revealed that all nine districts in Telangana and much of Rayalseema are severely drought-hit. While in essence drought means shortage of water, even in times of a seemingly ‘normal’ rainfall season there can be drought if water sources are mismanaged, as they currently are in both these regions. Governmental response to the ongoing crisis has been pathetic, even after the recent Supreme Court directions on drought. To take one instance – that of the NREG Act; even where a pittance of funds have been released by the Centre, there has been very little concrete relief for rural labourers in terms of availability of work, decent wages and prompt payment. Governmental insensitivity is evident in the fact that not even a single mandal in Adilabad and Khammam districts of Telangana been declared drought-hit. Senior officials are even denying that there is distress migration from Mahbubnagar district!
Placing people in such a position is to deny them their right to life. Yet, the sad reality is that drought-mitigation is not a statutory right in our country. Since we have a Constitution oriented to welfare, the time has come to speak in terms of the right not to be tormented by drought. In the immediate context therefore, this means that where there is drought, people should as a matter of right be provided with the three basic requirements to preserve life: work for people, fodder for animals and drinking water for both.
The grim reality is that despite public pronouncements to the contrary, governments are doing precious little for the provision of even these three rights. HRF feels that it is time all political parties and peoples movements got together to demand a statutory drought code which will ensure these minimal reliefs as a matter of right so that the drought-hit people need not beg or fight every year for mere survival when the water sources dry up.
VS Krishna S Jeevan Kumar
(HRF general secretary, TS&AP) (HRF president, TS&AP)