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The Indian Premier League (IPL)- the annual domestic Twenty20 cricket extravaganza- conducted under the aegis of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), found itself in a soup yet again, albeit of a different kind. Two NGOs, the Loksatta Movement and the Foundation for Democratic Reforms, filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) before the Bombay High Court regarding the wastage of water in holding IPL matches in Maharashtra, when many parts of the State were reeling under droughts and farmers were committing suicide due to parched land.

 

The NGOs reveal that as per the international rules, 3 lakh litres of water are required for maintaining one ground. Since 20 matches of the IPL are scheduled to be played in Maharashtra- Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur stadia- around 60 lakh litres of water will be needed for maintaining pitches during the IPL. This is a mammoth amount of water, considering there is shortage of water in many parts of the State.

The Bombay High Court rapped the state government, BCCI and other cricket bodies, condemning the heinous wastage of water, when people, cattle et al were dying in areas. While it did not stay the opening match of the IPL played at the Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai, it asked the state government and municipal bodies whether the water being provided for pitch maintenance in the IPL was potable or not. The Court also suggested shifting the IPL matches to a State with water abundance. The BCCI informed the court that it purchased the water to maintain grounds and that it was non-potable and could not be used for drinking purposes.

The State government, meanwhile, toughened its stance, and stated that there was no question that no potable water would be given for the IPL, even if the matches have to be shifted out of the State. BCCI secretary, Anurag Thakur responded saying that moving the matches out of Maharashtra will result in a loss of around Rs.1 billion to the State exchequer. He suggested that to tackle the problem, the funds from the IPL could be used for drought relief work and the BCCI could even adopt drought-hit villages, as had been suggested by another BCCI official Rajeev Shukla.

All said and done, the problem here is not the IPL in itself. Rather, it is the prioritization of water usage at a time when drought has hit many parts of the State. Ideally, the priority of usage is such: water for drinking and household purposes, then for agricultural purposes, then for industrial purposes and then for entertainment/recreation purposes. Also, when there are campaigns for saving water like play a dry Holi, splurging 6 million litres of water on cricket matches seems like a very skewed ratio indeed.

The next hearing on the matter of shifting matches out of Maharashtra has been scheduled for April 12. Until then, the question posed by the court is one for all of us to ponder: “is your cricket match more important than people?”…

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