Published: 01st July 2019
Why SFI wants the Indian government to declare a water emergency
The crisis, they feel, is not due to lesser water resources but because of poor water management and lack of a comprehensive national water policy
The Students' Federation of India (SFI) has demanded that the government provide free education and hostel facilities for students from drought-affected regions and announce special fellowships for them. They also urged all universities and other educational institutions to organise programmes to spread awareness about sustainable usage of water and how to secure water sources.
The student organisation, in a statement, also demanded that a water emergency be declared immediately and a sustainable national water policy be adopted along with the conservation of water resources, investment in water conservation rather than water infrastructure, protection of wetlands and RAMSAR sites, increasing tree cover etc. Students across the country, especially in Maharashtra, has already started protests against the water crisis and the government ill-handling the issue.
"Students from Nanded, Aurangabad and Amaravati University are protesting as we speak against the water crisis in the region and that it has been adversely affecting the students. They have been protesting regularly for the past few months on this issue," said the General Secretary of SFI, Mayukh Biswas. "In 2015, Swati Pitale, a Class XI student from Latur had committed suicide because she did not have the money to pay for her bus ride to school. The 16-year-old drank pesticide kept in a shed in her father's dried up tomato farm. In her suicide note, the teen pleaded the bank and money lenders not to harass her father. No one has been taking these issues seriously. The water crisis is affecting the students of this country for a long time and it is high time that we make people aware of it and take steps towards a solution," he added.
The crisis, they feel, is not due to lesser water resources but because of poor water management and lack of a comprehensive National Water Policy. "The government is trying to forestall criticism on water management by showcasing this as a dire resource crunch. 75% of the households do not have drinking water on their premises and 84% of rural households do not have piped water access. 70% of the water is contaminated and India is currently ranked 120 among 122 countries in water quality index," read the statement. "In many parts of India water meant for irrigation and drinking are often diverted to big companies like PepsiCo etc. And like every other crisis the poor suffer from the water crisis," it further added.
Due to prolonged droughts and repetitive crop failures along with the rising price of fertilisers and pesticides, farmers are pushed into a vicious circle of loans leading to mass suicides, bonded labour and high drop-out rates among school and college students. "Unable to sustain their livelihoods they are forced to migrate to big cities in search of jobs," said the SFI statement and asserted that they demand an immediate declaration of a Water Emergency all over India and a sustainable National Water Policy which will secure the Right to Water vis-a-vis Right to Life.
"We also urge all the universities to organise awareness programmes regarding the usage of water, secure water sources. We have plans to mark our 50th anniversary by planting 50 lakh saplings with a slogan, 'each one, plant one'," said Mayukh.