The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) department of the Tamil Nadu government has ordered the temple administration controlled by it across the state to perform special poojas and yagnas for bringing rain. The circular has also instructed the temple administration to sing particular ragas during the poojas.
The Commissioner of HR&CE department has also instructed all regional commissioners and officials to send a detailed report on the poojas performed in a detailed circular.
Instead of taking constructive steps to improve the groundwater levels and water management policies, the state government has resorted to irrational measures of performing poojas to bring rain.
The scientific community led by the Tamil Nadu Science Forum (TNSF) has ridiculed this move by the government.
North East Monsoon Fails for the Second Consecutive Year
The North East monsoon that brings rain to most of the districts of the state has failed for the second consecutive year and the government announced 24 districts as being drought-hit earlier this year. The drought has already had a severe impact on the farming sector and the general public. Many cities, towns and villages are facing severe water shortages for drinking water and agricultural needs. The private players are cashing in on the situation and are selling water at exorbitantly high rates.
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While the general public faces an acute water crisis, private players including multinational companies are facing no such issues, thanks to pumping out of gallons of litres of water. These companies are making huge profits during the summer season in particular.
Farmers are forced to purchase water at a cost of Rs 500 per tank (loaded in tractors) for watering their paddy fields in Virudhunagar district. This pathetic situation has pushed the farmers deeper into trouble.
Dams’ Storage Fall, As Silt Fills In
The storage levels of most of the dams in the state have come down as a result of the monsoon failure and poor water management. The effective storage capacity has also reduced due to lack of de-silting work for years altogether.
The All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) has condemned the move of the government to organise poojas to bring rain. The AIKS has demanded that the state government take steps to ensure drinking water and irrigation water supply to all. The demand for de-silting tanks and dams has not been looked into by the state governments and this lethargic attitude of the administration has worsened the crisis.
Tamil Nadu government following footsteps of BJP-ruled states
Former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa is known for her religious beliefs. She banned the rituals of sacrificing animals and birds in temples in 2003. While it was hailed as a success by animal rights activists, it was an open secret that she was a firm believer of astrology and the step was taken as a result of an astrologer’s advice. It was Jayalalithaa who initiated the steps for vacation and refreshment camps for elephants of the state-run temples.
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She also introduced an anti-conversion bill in 2002, which was warmly received by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). The law was later repealed after severe criticism by all quarters of people. The steps taken by her on the religious front, during her tenures, were seen not as an outcome of her personal beliefs alone but as a result of her soft- Hindutva approach.
Karnataka BJP government ordered poojas for rain
It was the BJP government in the state of Karnataka which set the ball rolling by ordering poojas to please the rain gods in 2012. The government then received widespread criticism for the move and the same move ordered by the succeeding Congress government as well. The moves drew widespread condemnation for involving unscientific activities and spending crores of money from the exchequer.
TNSF Slams AIADMK Government for ‘Pooja’ Move
The Tamil Nadu Science Forum (TNSF) in a strongly worded statement has come down heavily on the state government and the HR&CE department for issuing such a circular.
The Indian Constitution has mandated ‘to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform’, but an elected government has indulged in an act which has no scientific backing, the statement said.
Prof S Mohana, state president of TNSF, told Newsclick that, “Instead of implementing scientific measures to increase the groundwater levels and measures to store rain water in effective ways, the government is itself involved in unscientific measures in the name of belief. The state received good amounts of rainfall, but could not store the water for the needs during summer. This move now is only diverting the attention of the people from the failures of the government.”
She added, “India is one country which does not encourage the development of water catchment areas. A committee must be set up with experts to implement it at the earliest to avoid water scarcity. It is impossible to get rain during summer season, unless we have a low depression. But the government itself is praying for rain in summer. The government should wake up and carry out productive measures to store water instead of these unscientific measures to misguide people.”
The AIADMK has taken a leaf out of the BJP’s book in making people believe that religion and belief are the major factors affecting the people. This is a well-thought-out tactical move by these governments to divert the attention of the people. The people of the state are reeling under water scarcity, while the government pretends as if poojas and yagnas are the remedy for their mismanagement.