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Where is the happy ending to the real life ‘Lagaan’ in India?

March 30, 2018


<4 mins read <410 words

Anybody, who is slightly interested and/or aware of the Bollywood’s entries to the Oscars, might have heard of  ‘Lagaan’. It was nominated for the 2002 Oscars. This was a film about an imaginary village, in the Western Indian State of Gujarat during the colonial times, which had been parched and struggled with drought for years. ‘Lagaan’ (or the tax) would only be waived if the villagers won a cricket match against the British officer in-charge and his team, or else the villagers would pay double the tax as a punishment. No points for guessing how the movie ends.

The real life ‘Lagaan’ unfolding in India, from the eastern state of Odisha (formerly known as Orissa) all the way to Kerala in south, does not seem to have the same ending. The rainfall predicted in the Kharkhara village in Odisha has decreased 3 folds in the last three years, making it extremely drought hit. In 2017, Balangir district in Odisha recorded just 840mm of rain. This is leading to the waves of climate refugees or migrants seeking refuge in far off states such as Karnataka and others, mostly working as bonded labor for meager payments (in brick kilns, construction projects and so on.)  Odisha has been facing droughts for many years now and this has also resulted in the farmers’ suicide, just like the state of Maharashtra.

Screen Shot 2018-04-03 at 3.25.50 PM


The southern Indian state of Kerala has also declared emergency for nine of its district and has to adopt extreme measures, such as delivery of water tankers to fill the point sources of drinking water kiosks and others to avoid drinking water crisis looming there.

In conclusion: India has a long way to go towards solving not only its domestic water crisis from Delhi to Karnataka but also solving the trans-boundary issues of water sharing with neighboring countries of Pakistan,Nepal and Bangladesh. The able bodied and younger villagers migrate to urban areas leaving behind an aging, sick and elderly population. A combination of steps such as smart water catchment management learning from the developed nations, encouraging different methods of earning a living via natural resources management, to the very traditional ones, such as granting aids to the farmers in addition to equitable distribution of water to various sectors, implementing community based adaptation and others shall help keep the population in the villages and provide jobs to more than half a million people in the state of Odisha and across the country.

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