Supreme Court played superb role in addressing drought: Yogendra Yadav
"If not for the apex court's intervention the nation's agricultural crisis would never have been taken this seriously," said Yogendra Yadav, speaking to Asianet Newsable in an exclusive interview. Yadav's political organisation - Swaraj Abhiyaan - filed the public interest litigation (PIL) on drought that spurred the Supreme Court to severely berate the Centre and the states for failing to address the acute drought gripping India - which has affected 33 crore citizens.
Yadav added, "The Supreme Court has accorded extraordinary judicial scrutiny to this case and has accepted most of our contentions. The manner in which the proceedings of this case were conducted - where some hearings would stretch over seven full days and the court would devote the whole day to this case is very unusual. " "Also the court demanded a lot of specific information and it was this seriousness that left the Centre and states with no choice but to accord due importance to the case. if not for that both these agencies were less inclined to take this case seriously," he added.
Speaking on the seriousness of the case, Yadav said, "Both the Centre and States had to accord the subject the seriousness it deserved only because of the Supreme Court's extreme and intense scrutiny where it held both the Centre and states directly responsible for the appalling drought conditions and demanded explanations and detailed affidavits about many complex issues like the water crisis."
"The court has accepted our demands of formulating a comprehensive national plan on disaster management and also acknowledged that there must be a time limit for the declaration of drought on scientific grounds. It also directed the Centre to revise the drought management manual to provide timely relief to farmers and prepare a national plan to tackle the crisis," he said.
The apex court did not mince its words while admonishing both the Centre and the states on Wednesday. It was of the opinion that in case the state-governments adopt an 'ostrich-like attitude' by not declaring drought then the Centre cannot wash its hands off its constitutional responsibility of addressing the problem as the 'buck stops' with it, in all matters concerning India's common people.
The apex court also said it was "quite surprised" that neither a national plan has been drawn nor is there a national disaster mitigation fund even after 10 years of the enforcement of the Disaster Management Act, 2005. "Evidently, anticipating a disaster such as a drought is not yet in the 'things to do' list of the Union of India and ad-hoc measures and knee jerk reactions are the order of the day," chided the court.
In its 53-page judgement, the apex court also used a Bal Gangadhar Tilak's quote, "The problem is not lack of resources or capability, but the lack of will." The bench noted that the lack of will was on full display as states like Bihar, Gujarat and Haryana were, "Hesitant to even acknowledge, let alone address, a possible drought-like situation or a drought by not disclosing full facts about the prevailing conditions in these states."
The court also said, "The sound of silence coming from these states subjects the vulnerable to further distress, adding that though Gujarat was late in declaring drought, Haryana and Bihar are still in denial."
This comes after earlier in April; the Supreme Court had lashed out against Gujarat for not filing an affidavit on the matter, it had said, "Just because you're Gujarat doesn't mean you can do whatever you like."