What should worry us more, high petrol, diesel prices or severe water crisis?
Bengaluru, May 31: What do we value more--a litre of petrol/diesel or water? It all depends on our situation. Right? But the current scenario in the country has left us with a very few options--if prices of petrol and diesel have reached an all-time high, then our kitchen taps are also fast drying up.
We have to think twice before indulging in otherwise mundane activities (now considered as luxuries) like a nice, long shower to wash off our summer sweat, dirt, or going for a long drive with near and dear ones in the family car. The situation has reached such a point that we have to learn the art of living without water, petrol and diesel-- sooner the better.
While beautiful and green Shimla is reeling under acute water crisis, Mumbaikars say they can't afford to buy petrol anymore as the rate has touched Rs 85.65 per litre, the highest in the country.
Strangely, a few weeks ago, we were hardly talking about either water or petrol. We were busy discussing about the outcome of Karnataka Assembly elections or air pollution in Delhi. Actually, we have so many issues that we can't talk about everything every time, it will be very chaotic that way.
So we pick and choose a few of them depending on what matters the most to us at any given point in time or our television news channels programme us to debate about.
As far as fuel prices are concerned, consumers have almost lost hope that the Narendra Modi government would do something to bring down the sky-rocketing prices of petrol and diesel after it played a "cruel joke" on us on Wednesday.
To the utter horror of all, the government after generating some euphoria among the eternal optimists that the prices of petrol and diesel were reduced by Rs 1 a litre each clarified that the actual cut was 1 paisa. That is when everyone realised that it's the biggest "prank" (as Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweeted) Prime Minister Modi has played on the voters so far.
Announcement of demonetisation to wipe out black money and end corruption, and promise to deposit Rs 15 lakh in the bank accounts of every citizen of the country are some of the past tricks of "prankster Modi".
After witnessing regular increase of fuel prices for 16 days continuously, when the time came (as crude oil price too has come down) Modi's achhe din got stuck in 1 paisa. Twitterati called the Bharatiya Janata Party government at the Centre #EkPaiseKiSarkar (can be loosely translated into "a government worth of one paisa").
Nothing moved the Centre to follow in the footsteps of the Kerala government which on Wednesday took the popular stand of reducing petrol and diesel prices by Rs 1 a litre each at the cost of hurting its own revenue generation by several hundred crores annually.
On Thursday, for a second consecutive day, prices of fuels were reduced. Again it was negligible. While petrol price was cut by 7 paisa, diesel by 5 paisa per litre by the government, which many feel is too little and too late.
Coming to the water crisis--a warning which we have been ignoring for long but activists continue to raise alarm about--Shimla has turned dry. Situation is so bad that the locals have asked the tourists to stay away from holidaying in the hill station.
If South Africa's capital Cape Town is on the verge of running out of water in the next three years, in Shimla, one of the tourists' favourite summer destinations, is managing without water for close to 10 days.
It is strange that the capital city of Himachal Pradesh, from where rivers like Ravi, Beas and Chenab originate, has no water. Long queues of people (mostly women and girls), holding buckets and drums in front of tankers to get their share of water, are the regular sights one encounters in the city, these days.
To avoid a riot-like situation, employees of the Shimla Municipal Corporation while distributing water through its tankers to the public are escorted by police personnel. It is easy to spot men in khaki then taps with running water in Shimla.
Those who can afford are buying bottled water in bulk to meet their daily requirements. At least the whole crisis has brought some smiles on traders who have acknowledged that the city has witnessed a huge rise in demand for bottled water, almost 60 per cent.
In Rajasthan, known for its deserts and arid land, locals in Parasrampura village are keeping their water drums locked as they fear water robbery. Villagers told ANI that due to acute shortage of water there have been cases of water theft at night.
So the best possible way to "save" water is to keep the drums locked. In Chhattisgarh, locals in Bastar's Jheeram village are forced to drink dirty water as clean water is not available.
Meanwhile, to beat the summer heat, residents of Hyderabad, where the water crisis is still not so acute like in Shimla, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, are enjoying ice cream a lot, these days.