“Divine resolve is always true resolve. Remember there is nothing that divine power cannot accomplish. It can transmute earth into sky and sky into earth. To doubt this is to prove that you are too weak to grasp great things, the grandeur of the universe.” (43rd birthday Discourse, 23 November 1968)
Incompetence and corruption of entrepreneurs beyond Sai Baba’s omnipotent control?
The Rayalaseema drinking water project was financed by donations from followers of Sathya Sai Baba and began in 1996. Only in a fraction of the villages where it was supposed to be installed, leading to many disturbances by divers villagers in the Rayalaseema area variously reported in the local press. The water was very unevenly distributed, with the Prashanthi Nilayam ashram being a main beneficiary. All that is carefully suppressed by the Sathya Sai authorities in their lavish hand-outs and web pages praising the project to heaven. Nonetheless, this has done a lot of good to some villagers. Already in 1996, the Sathya Sai Rayalaseema Water Project was shown to be failing considerably due to unforeseen natural circumstances, as the report from Andhra Pradesh Regional News Network showed. Further, he had not predicted – nor miraculously altered – what proved to be a drastically sinking water table nor did he have any effect on flawed engineering plans or the many corrupt entrepreneurs involved! Sai Baba proclaimed that he has come to restore Sathya (truth) and Dharma (righteousness) – and he promised he wouldn’t travel abroad until everything was cleared up in India. Those who believe in his words and accept that water scarcity is due to decline of Sathya and Dharma will have to realize eventually that his mission has hardly made any progress in India, far less in the world.
The water projects in Rayalaseema, Andhra Pradesh, Medak and Mahabubnagar, and the canal repair for Chennai financed by followers of Sathya Sai Baba and named after him are no doubt admirable for those who suffer water shortages and now receive more than before. Much was achieved, while much went wrong, and no one connected with Sathya Sai Baba is allowed to mention anything negative about these projects, which are widely promoted as ‘Divine Miracles’. This article is therefore simply to help correct some of this totally one-sided propaganda. I repeat, this is not to denigrate the good intentions of those who donated (including myself!) nor whatever positive results have been achieved. Rather, it is simply to counterbalance the mendacious aspects of Sai Baba projects and what most of the Indian media have become afraid to publish concerning anything critical of what government-protected Sathya Sai Baba says or does and so contributes to many public misconceptions. It is carefully covered up that Puttaparthi has since the project began been experiencing severe water problems, despite the ‘Divine Avatar’ promises and claims of infallibility (see Sathya Sai Baba – insider report)
Further, these Sai water projects do not compare in size or cost with the truly huge water projects carried out by the authorities in the same region (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu). The running of the Rayalaseema water project had to be handed over to the AP Government due to maintenance problems etc. All this is a rather poor showing for an omnipotent avatar whose mission is no less than to transform humanity, is it not?
Illustrating the absurd simplicity of Sai Baba’s claims and the short-sightedness of his project in view of the actual problems and limitation concerning water in Andhra Pradesh and adjacent regions, Serguei Badaev – former President of the Moscow Sathya Sai Centre of Russia wrote:-
A press release from the Worldwatch Institute (September 23, 1999) states: “As world population approaches 6 billion on October 12, water tables are falling on every continent, major rivers are drained dry before
they reach the sea and millions of people lack enough water to satisfy basic needs.” In India the situation is very serious due to its vast arid areas and increasing population. Scarcity of water is a part of a global environmental
crisis and is of utmost importance for the humanity survival. The Financial Express (India) has written: “According to the ministry of water resources, ground water level in 16 states dipped to more than four metres in the period 1981-2000”., while according to a BBC correspondent “Water shortages are likely to emerge as the major environmental challenge for India in the new millennium.” http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/732302.stm
Sathya Sai Baba (SSB) has proclaimed himself a Supreme Incarnation of God (Purna Avatar) who is omniscient (all-knowing) and has come to save humanity. It is quite interesting to see what his explanation of the water deficit problem is. The following arehis words from his discourse of 6th May 2000.– “Why does water scarcity arise? When there is a decline in Sathya (Truth) and Dharma (Righteousness), the level of water in the earth also declines. As compassion and love have diminished in human heart, water has become scarce. This problem is not due divine fury as some people may imagine. It is because of the rise in evil qualities in man. If people strictly adhere to the path of truth and righteousness, there will never be water scarcity.” (Sanathana Sarathi, v.43, June 2000, #6, p.165)
Applying this to the real situation in India and especially in Andhra Pradesh, where SSB lives, it sounds as an inexcusable oversimplification. Below are some causes which are mentioned by specialists in various publications. It is clear that water scarcity is a complex problem and simplistic approaches to solve it cannot be effective.
1) Population growth followed by increased water consumption “In India…the pumping of underground water is now estimated to be double the rate of aquifer recharge from rainfall. The International Water Management Institute, the world’s premier water research group, estimates that India’s grain harvest could be reduced by up to one fourth as a result of aquifer depletion. In a country adding 18 million people per year, this is not good news.” (Lester R. Brown and Brian Halweil POPULATIONS OUTRUNNING WATER SUPPLY AS WORLD HITS 6 BILLION www.worldwatch.org/alerts/990923.html
2) Over exploitation of the ground water “One of the biggest hurdles in addressing the problems related to ground water shortage is that replenishment of groundwater and augmentation of water supplies is primarily the state government’s responsibility. Ground water exploitation has gone unchecked over the last decade which has now forced the Central Ground Water Authority to advise the state governments to take measures to check over-exploitation of ground water”.
3) Disputes and irregularities in sharing water of the rivers going through neighbouring states “The last few months have witnessed highly tense relations between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over the release of water for saving the paddy crops in the Cauvery delta in the latter. … Such problems are not confined to these two States alone. There are problems between Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu and the like. It is not unusual to see the occurrence of severe drought in some parts of the country, while certain other parts are ravaged by floods.
It is time the policy-makers think of a permanent solution to this problem which has become as perennial as the Himalayan rivers. The only tangible solution lies in creating the required infrastructure to divert the surplus waters available in one part of the country to the deficit areas.”( THE HINDU, Tuesday, Oct 08, 2002)(see also THE HINDU, Sunday, Oct 13, 2002).
4) Urbanisation and industrialisation “In addition to population growth, urbanisation and industrialisation also expand the demand for water. As developing country villagers, traditionally reliant on the village well, move to urban high-rise apartment buildings with indoor plumbing, their residential water use can easily triple. Industrialisation takes even more water than urbanisation.” and ” In the increasingly intense competition for water among sectors, agriculture almost always loses. The 1,000 tons of water used in India to produce one ton of wheat worth perhaps $200 (Rs. 10,000) can also be used to expand industrial output by $10,000 (Rs. 5,00,000), or 50 times as much. This ratio helps explain why, in the American West, the sale of irrigation water rights by farmers to cities is an almost daily occurrence.” (THE HINDU, Sunday, August 05, 2001)
5) Increasing water pollution “The most common method of disposal of solid municipal waste in India is by deposition in landfills. In order to minimise the impact of such landfills on groundwater quality and the environment in general it is necessary to properly design and build these facilities to prevent pollution and put in place strict management controls to ensure they are operated correctly. Unfortunately this is rarely done as few towns and industries in the country make the necessary effort to ensure thattheir solid waste is treated or disposed of in a proper manner. The principal threat to groundwater comes from inadequately controlled landfills where leachate generated from the fill material is allowed to escape to the surrounding and underlying ground. The chemical composition of such leachate depends on the nature and age of the landfill and the leaching rate. Most leachates emanating from municipal solid wastes are not only high in organic content but also contain some toxic material. Leachates from solid wastes of industrial origin, however, often contain a much higher proportion of toxic constituents, such as metals and organic pollutants.” Here are mentioned a few things that are essential in water shortage problems in India. Among others are deforestation, and lack of rainfall conservation activity (see e.g. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/732464.stm). Quite often simple and effective solutions are overlooked and very expensive irrigation projects are implemented instead.
“They have continued to overlook simple and effective methods like a series of small water storage tanks, the recharging of village wells whose water percolates the ground and replenishes underground reservoirs for drinking and irrigation purposes. Over the years, however, traditional storage tanks and ponds have silted and dried up. In Andhra Pradesh alone, a majority of the 52,000 water tanks have more or less silted up.”
From the examples above it is clear that, though the water scarcity problem has an ethical dimension, it is very complicated and includes interrelated economic, sociological, geographical and political aspects.