The Telegraph – India must address water scarcity issue on a war footing

The unregulated use of groundwater, the primary source of drinking water for rural India, must be checked.

Editorial Board, 28 June 2019. Access to resources that are critical for the sustenance of communities should be recognized as rights. It is thus heartening to note that Madhya Pradesh is seeking to enact the Right to Water Act, a first-of-its-kind legislation, which seeks to guarantee a certain quantum of water to every citizen on a daily basis.

The prime minister, too, has expressed his resolve to make piped water available to every household by 2024. Such initiatives, even though they are ambitious, are laudable. Yet, there is a case to argue that the transformation of natural resources into commodities meant for public consumption in a populous country like India often leads to wastage and, subsequently, scarcity.

The pressure exerted by populism on policy compounds shortages in precious resources. Incidentally, sops to agriculturalists for the use of groundwater as well as the unregulated extraction of water for industrial purposes are not uncommon in the country.

India is all set to pay a heavy price for such lapses. Niti Aayog’s Composite Water Management Index states that 600 million Indians reside in high or extreme water-stressed zones and that the creaking water supply system is on the verge of collapsing. The think tank has also expressed the apprehension that 21 Indian cities would run out of groundwater by 2020.

The scale of the imminent crisis can perhaps be adjudged from Chennai’s present troubles. Scanty rainfall, a scorching summer and, most importantly, apathy and myopia of successive administrations have brought untold suffering to the city and its people. Time is of the essence. India must address the problem of water scarcity on a war footing and on multiple levels.

Practices that lead to the exploitation of water in agriculture, the sector uses 78 per cent of the nation’s water, and industry must stop. The unregulated use of groundwater, the primary source of drinking water for rural India, must be checked. Distribution systems in metropolitan areas suffer from leakages: they need to be modernized.

Equally significant is the conservation and regeneration of resources. A law may not always be enough in this context. Tamil Nadu had made water harvesting compulsory; yet Chennai is now bone dry. The real challenge, therefore, would be to sensitize citizens to the criminal wastage of water. Only then can they claim to have a right over this valuable resource.

The Tribune – Gurdaspur village in troubled waters, courtesy caste divide

Ravi Dhaliwal, Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur – Panjab – India, 26 June 2019. Nearly 1,600 residents of Khojepur village, 3 km from here, are living in inhuman conditions as a sharp divide between Scheduled Caste Mashas and upper caste Jat Sikhs is keeping the issue of waterlogging simmering.

Sewage from households, which accumulates in narrow alleys, has no outlet making the entire village waterlogged. This has led to an outbreak of a number of diseases.

The Tribune in September last year had published the plight of the hamlet, following which Gurdaspur DC Vipul Ujwal accompanied by officials of 14 departments, including Health and Water Supply and Sanitation, reached the spot and tried to find a solution, but to no avail. Water samples were collected, but the results are not known to date.

Politics is said to be another reason behind the unending problem. Village sarpanch Jyoti Bala owes allegiance to Dinanagar (Reserved) MLA and Cabinet minister Aruna Chaudhury. The nearby agricultural fields, which have the capacity to absorb the excess water, are owned by the Jat Sikhs.

The divide between the communities is too palpable to be dismissed. In February this year, a clash took place between the Mashas and the Jats and an FIR was registered. It was perceived to be an altercation between Chaudhury’s men and the Akali-minded Jat Sikhs.

A majority of the population belongs to the SC community here.

Five months down the line, the political equations have changed but nothing has changed for the poor villagers. Jyoti Bala now says that Chaudhury was unwilling to help them for “reasons best known to the legislator”.

“MLA or no MLA, things are simply not moving. To make things worse, water from a nearby pond reverses its flow and enters the houses during monsoon. Every second day we have to take somebody to the Civil Hospital.

We have nothing against the Jats or the Akalis. All we want is to find a solution to drain out the contaminated water,” said Pardeep Kumar, a relative of the sarpanch.

The DC, however, claimed that his officers were trying to make the Jats see reason. “The paddy sowing season is on during which water can be used in their fields. It used to happen earlier but somehow they are not allowing it to enter their landholdings now. I have asked the District Development and Panchayat Officer to submit a report on this at the earliest,” he added.

Brussel/Bruxelles: Place Schuman – Schuman NMBS – Brussel Noord

Place Schuman
18 June 2019

European Commission

More European buildings

Schuman NMBS
18 June 2019

Waiting for a train to take me to Brussel Noord

It is not easy to negotiate the rabbit warren that is Schuman rail and metro station

My train is due at 15:55

Brussel Noord
18 June 2019

Brussel Noord NMBS

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Ottawa Citizen – Leader of India’s Punjab calls for sanctions against Canada if it does not crack down on Sikh extremists

‘India had, for too long, been soft towards Canada and needed to crack its whip aggressively, even seek UN sanctions if needed, to end the growing threat once and for all’

Tom Blackwell

Ottawa – Ontario – Canada, 27 June 2019. Captain Amarinder Singh has always made it clear he thinks Canada is soft on alleged Sikh extremists in this country.

The head of India’s Panjab state government once alleged the Liberal cabinet harbours four “Khalistani” advocates of an independent Sikh homeland, publicly snubbed Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and gave Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a list of purported Sikh terrorists living here.

But Singh went even further with his critique in an unexpected statement issued this week, accusing the Canadian government of providing “overt and covert” support to the Khalistani movement, and calling on New Delhi to consider sanctions against Canada if it does not take a tougher stance.

The Panjab chief minister urged India’s national government “to mount global pressure on Canada to put an end to the use of its soil to unleash terror against India, particularly the Sikh community being targeted by Khalistani terrorists.”

“India had, for too long, been soft towards Canada and needed to crack its whip aggressively, even seek UN sanctions if needed, to end the growing threat once and for all, the Chief Minister stressed,” said the news release posted on the Punjab government’s website Monday.

The comments add to ongoing tension between the two countries over the Khalistani issue, and the degree to which Canadian politicians support the movement.

It’s unclear what prompted the latest outburst, although it follows a decision by the federal government in April to remove specific references to Sikh extremism from a contentious Public Safety Canada report on terrorism.

Global Affairs Canada, asked about the statement, was unable to respond by deadline.

The Indian government has also voiced concerns over Canadian politicians’ approach to Sikh nationalism, but the Indian High Commission in Ottawa did not reply to a request for comment.

For Sikhs here, Singh’s verbal attack comes “completely out of left field,” said Balpreet Singh, legal counsel for the World Sikh Organization.

The allegations are unfounded, and some of them are “outlandish”, but they will nonetheless harm Canadian members of the faith, he said.

It hurts us here as a community

“What this looks like to us, is foreign interference, a narrative created in India and pushed into Canada about Canadian Sikhs,” said Singh. “It hurts us here as a community. It’s something that affects our reputation, and affects folks here on the ground.”

Singh suggested the Panjab leader may simply be angry that Canada barred him from coming here in 2016 to campaign among the Indian diaspora, a group considered to have considerable influence and financial clout in Punjab politics.

Accusing another country of giving a safe haven to terrorists could also help distract voters from the state’s struggling economy, he said.

Amarinder Singh, a former Indian army officer, first aired his criticisms of Canada in April 2017, when he insisted the four Sikhs in Trudeau’s cabinet were Khalistanis, a charge denied by all of them, and refused to meet Sajjan when the minister visited Punjab.

Peaceful support for an independent Khalistan in India is strong among leadership of Sikh temples [Gurdwaras] in Canada, with some gurdwaras displaying portraits of alleged extremists, and Canadian politicians have for years now reached out to such leaders as they court the powerful Sikh vote.

One of the guests on Trudeau’s ill-fated India trip in February 2018 was Jaspal Atwal, convicted of attempting to assassinate an Indian cabinet minister in 1986.

Trudeau sat down with Singh for a fence-mending session during that same trip, with the Punjab chief minister handing over a list of nine alleged Sikh extremists in Canada.

Whether by coincidence or not, at least three Sikhs were for the first time placed on the federal no-fly list last year. Last December’s edition of the annual terror report also mentioned the threat of Sikh terrorism for the first time, though that phrasing was removed and replaced with a reference to extremists who pursue separatism in India after an outcry from Sikh leaders here.

In his statement, Singh referred to the list of “wanted terrorists” he provided to Trudeau last year but said “the lack of response from their government so far has exposed their intent.”

Canada’s “failure to check anti-India activities being carried out from its soil would be detrimental to its own security and interests in the long run,” he warned.

As evidence, the chief minister quoted extensively from the 2010 findings of a public inquiry into the Air-India bombing by Sikh terrorists, which concluded the attack followed a “cascading series of errors” by security agencies 34 years ago.

Singh’s statement exhibits a less-than-perfect knowledge of Canadian political geography, indicating the seat of federal government is Toronto, not Ottawa.

Dawn – It takes two to tangle

Asha’ar Rehman

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 28 June 2019. Signs are that the powers within the house of Sharif are finding it a wee bit tough to reconcile with each other’s authority. The latest proof of a lack of, or a need for, adjustment came in the shape of a statement by Ms Maryam Nawaz that was found by the rightly inclined to be agitating against the considered view of her uncle, Mian Shahbaz Sharif.

Ms Nawaz had dubbed any possible ‘meesaq-i-maeeshat’, or charter of economy, ‘mazaq-i-maeeshat’ or a joke with the economy. This provided the channels with an opportunity, and they had a field day identifying the breach inside the Sharif fortress, not for the first, nor likely the last, time.

The expected twist to this little rift that cast a long shadow over the Sharif dynasty’s internal discipline was given by Ms Nawaz who, as predicted, furnished a fresh statement of her belief in the leadership of Mr Shahbaz Sharif.

The PML-N would have behaved as if Ms Maryam Nawaz’s oath of allegiance to her leader has resolved the small matter. But its desire to stay poker-faced in the wake of the fresh realities aside, there are new centres of powers to be spotted inside the PML-N camp for anyone who cares to see.

The sequence where a remark is passed by one of the authorities within the PML-N and then withdrawn on one pretext or the other has been played just too many times. The strain, or the causes that could lead to one, is increasingly showing.

To begin with, it is unnatural for anyone to believe that two leaderships diametrically opposed to each other over not just strategy but, ‘visibly’, ideology as well can coexist in a party.

Quite often, mistakenly, the Shahbaz-Maryam situation is compared to the old and successful formula where Mr Shahbaz Sharif and Mian Nawaz Sharif were supposed to be individually, and separately, providing leadership to the PML-N in the past.

The attempt to draw a parallel between that long-serving arrangement and the current understanding has been flawed from the beginning, since over all these years of spectacular PML-N victories and occasional setbacks, it was never in any doubt as to who the supreme leader was.

Mian Nawaz Sharif is still that supreme adhesive but his capacity to provide a bonding at every required moment has been grossly compromised by his incarceration.

Everyday decisions pertaining to running party politics have to be taken by the relatively more free souls existing outside the walls of Kot Lakhpat jail.

The process to reach these decisions is most definitely going to shackle the minds of those who make them, given the different directions that Mr Shahbaz Sharif and Ms Maryam Nawaz took as evident in this latest two-pronged, in fact two-faced, PML-N front.

Over the decades, analysts, comprising both, the one with ill intent and the well-wishers, have struggled to break down the ingredients of what went into the solid and lasting partnership between the Sharif brothers.

One easy explanation we all relied upon for years was that it was the presence of Mian Sharif, the Sharif dynasty founder, which had kept his sons united.

When the patriarch passed away during the Sharif exile after the 1999 coup, some readily described it as the moment that was to release Mian Nawaz Sharif and Mian Shahbaz Sharif from each other’s bondage.

It was thought that soon they would embark on their independent journeys determined by the difference in their respective personalities. It’s been some years since the alliance has survived the worst wishes that have been directed its way.

Looking for ever simpler explanations, the major, if not the clinching, reason for the continued partnership between these two politicians with distinct styles was said to be Mr Shahbaz Sharif’s belief in the unshakeable patriarchal system.

It was said that he was able to easily replace his father with his elder brother as the leader, propped up on the basis of the respect that those with more recent origins must have for their elders.

In the most celebrated local tradition of jauris or duos or pairs, allegiance by the younger to the older statesmen is considered absolutely essential, and as recent trends go, the Nawaz-Shahbaz jauri is the most steadfast and the hardest to crack.

Many other pairings seemingly unbreakable at one time, have fallen by the wayside; usually such allies were seduced or devoured by interests around them.

Like items in a scheme, this allegiance business is complemented by other matters of convention. In times, when resistance is inevitable against the old forces holding the puzzle together many old things that are not being ostensibly targeted do come under immense pressure to survive.

And a match between the ostensible and really desirable takes an altogether new meaning when the spotlight is put back on the PML-N in its present state.

Ms Maryam Nawaz is out to challenge, even if some old observers insist that what she has put up is a facade, and a longing for a deal with the establishment is not any less pronounced in her camp in comparison with other power-chasers in the country.

Her stance is going to repeatedly bring her in confrontation, before anyone else, with the much more softly moving Mr Shahbaz Sharif. And this despite the fact that for all practical purposes the Shahbazian command of the PML-N was replaced with a Maryam takeover of the party some time ago.

A Shahbaz Sharif having wielded so much authority in his typically flamboyant style, it is a picture that is most difficult to imagine. There will have to be rationalisation here. One plank will have to retreat.

The other option is the takeover of the PML-N by one of the two factions after a clash that will be difficult to paper over with high-sounding, conventional lines.

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.