A RIVER ONCE FLOWED
A shepherd walks through the dry desert that was once the Wainganga, the largest river in the drought-plagued Vidarbha region of Maharashtra. This pre-monsoon period, between the middle of March and early May, has been the driest in Vidarbha for six years. Scanty rains in the last monsoon has meant that reservoirs are running dangerously low, and in the midst of a heat wave, over 7,000 villages in the region are facing acute water shortage. Drought has played a significant role in the tens of thousands of farmer suicides in Vidarbha over the last decade. Just last month, a debt-ridden farmer in Yavatmal reportedly blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a suicide note found by the police. Yavatmal city receives its municipal water supply once every 22 days. Other reports suggest that hundreds of thousands of residents in the wider district must wait up to 45 days to receive water, relying in the meantime on profiteering private tankers. The authorities must answer questions about the lack of apparent contingency planning, given the predictability of this water crisis.