Floods or drought?

Right InThe Middle

Let me pose a macabre question. What do you prefer — floods or drought? Give me drought any day, I would answer it myself. But why this preference you may ask. Go ahead and ask. Here is my answer.

Drought does not kill people en masse. Houses do not crumble. Bridges are not washed away. Roads do not disappear. You do not need copters to air drop food packets and water sachets or to rescue people marooned on tree tops for as long as three days.

Our ‘netas’ need not do aerial surveys to assess the damage for during a drought there is no water to inundate vast stretches of land. No one does an air tour to see parched land — it is not photogenic from the top through the plane’s window.

No train services need be cancelled nor rerouted to make journey more arduous. Railways do not have to worry about rebuilding the bridges and rail tracks. Nor the highways need to be asphalted afresh. No danger of epidemics spreading.

Droughts do bring misery, no doubt. No water to drink or raise crop. But no one will die of starvation but may be hunger. Our food stocks are bountiful, the government has assured us. They can always be rushed to drought hit areas because road or rail link is not disrupted. But if there are floods things are different. Even if you have stocks how will you reach the masses?

Look at the enormity of reconstruction if there are floods. The poor villager has to start from the scratch for where his home once stood is now a crumble of mud and bricks. Buried in the debris are his belongings, memories and events. A drought will not cause this type of collateral damage. It is more kind and understanding. Statistically more people have dies during floods than drought.

But this is not the reason why the celebrated journalist P Sainath wrote the book ‘Why everybody likes a good drought’.

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