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Posted at: May 12, 2016, 1:29 AM; last updated: May 12, 2016, 1:29 AM (IST)

Haryana rapped for concealing facts on prevailing condition

Naveen S Garewal and Sushil Manav

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 11

Haryana’s constant denial about a drought-like situation in the state drew flak from the apex court that has termed Haryana’s reaction to inadequate availability of water as “lack of will”. Haryana, Bihar and Gujarat are hesitant to even acknowledge the drought-like situation by not disclosing full facts about the prevailing conditions, it said.

“An ostrich-like attitude is a pity…… Bihar and Haryana continue to be in a denial mode. Surely, if a state government maintains an ostrich-like attitude, a disaster requires a far more proactive and nuanced response from the Union of India.” The Supreme Court made these observations in its judgment on a PIL by Swaraj Abhiyan.

The Haryana Government had denied any drought-like situation in the state claiming that a self-sufficient irrigation system was in place in the state in the form of the Bhakra Canal and the Yamuna.

Haryana maintained there were lakhs of tubewells and wells that ensured that 83 per cent of the state area got water for irrigation through canals, tubewells and wells. There is also no shortage of fodder or drinking water, Haryana told the court.

In stark contrast to a recent ground report by The Tribune showing how people in several parts of state were purchasing potable water from neighbouring Rajasthan, the state government almost denied that there was any shortage of water for irrigation or drinking.

The Supreme Court said Haryana was hesitant to even acknowledge, let alone address, a possible drought-like situation or a drought by not disclosing full facts about the prevailing conditions. “A candid admission does not imply a loss of face or invite imputations of ineffective governance—it is an acknowledgement of reality. An ostrich-like attitude is a pity, particularly since the persons affected by a possible drought-like situation usually belong to the most vulnerable sections of society,” the court said.

The apex court has also discussed in details the chart of key indicators (NDVI and MAI) placed before it by the petitioner and said the chart indicated a frightening picture and showed that most of the state was under severe, moderate or mild drought.

“NDVI stands for Normalised Difference Vegetation Index while MAI is Moisture Adequacy Index,” explained Rajeev Godara of the Swaraj Abhiyan.

The reply by Haryana said the deficit rainfall for June and July 2015 was minus 12.6 per cent and for 2015 it was minus 16.4 per cent. However, there is sufficient coverage under irrigation through tubewells and canals and as such a declaration of drought was not warranted, the state government’s response said.

However, the court said, “In terms of deficit rainfall, there is most certainly a drought-like situation in Haryana.”

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