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Vol. XXIX No. 17, December 16-31, 2019
It is true that in 2015 Chennai was battered by unprecedented rains that left the city a devastated area. A year later came a cyclone of mega proportions. Both of these left the metropolis scarred for a long time to come. Since then we have seen a year of adequate rains, one of a total drought and most recently, a monsoon that has left the city with a deficit of 30 per cent. But the fear psychosis continues, and it is only aided and abetted by careless reporting, scaremongering and circulation of fake news. This does not become Chennai but it is unfortunately the truth.
This has been a feature ever since the 2015 floods. Then it became fashionable to circulate so called news releases from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the USA, that further rains were expected, which would completely swamp the city. It took quite a while for people to realise that the NASA is not into issuing weather bulletins. Then came dire predictions from almanacs, all of which have since proved to be baseless. But between them they did have the city panic-stricken, which is quite understandable given the deluge of that year.
But to carry that same stories over in 2019 each time a cloud is sighted speaks of a sick mind. Conventional media, especially the second-grade news sites and web channels in the vernacular, have not helped. Even a light shower is made out to be a downpour and the movement of a cloud band is depicted as a cyclone. The consequence is that people immediately react with fear and much time is wasted in preparations for a flood that is not coming at all.
Prevailing conditions in the city do not help either. Let’s face it, much of Chennai is built on erstwhile lakes – a fact over which everyone registered horror and shock in 2015 but have since gone on to gloss over. Encroachment of water bodies continues relentlessly as is evident from the recent instance of a police station being built on a lake at Thamaraikeni near Sholinganallur. This being the case, how can we not expect much of the city to be inundated with even a mild spell of rain? But just try explaining this to many residents of Chennai. The standard expectation is that by some miracle there should be no flooding no matter what the location of the place of stay be.
The state of preparedness of our civic bodies too does not do anything to allay fears of flooding. This year too, despite the fact that there were 24 months (the last rains were in 2017) to prepare, most roads were dug up when the rains did come. The storage reservoirs have still not been desilted and so would not have been able to retain the waters in case we had had a monsoon with no deficit. As for the stormwater drains, they are never in a position to handle rain, chiefly because they are never cleaned.
The December Music Season is in full swing.
Agriculture, by its nature, is exposed to the ravages of climatic change and produce-price volatility. Growers plant crops in the face of this twin uncertainty hoping that the money and effort they put into the soil would be recovered and rewarded. These risks cannot be totally avoided but can be coped with. Crop insurance aims at compensating the risk arising out of nature’s vagaries.
Under the Prime Minister Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) scheme, the cost of protection is shared predominantly by the tax-payers – Centre and State governments – and in a small proportion by growers. In that respect and also for its national coverage, the scheme is unique and ambitious. After a full year of operation in 2017-18, it is time to understand how the scheme has fared apropos the status of implementation in Tamil Nadu, farmer acceptance, hurdles and solutions, sustainability of the scheme and, finally, whether crop insurance
Editor’s note: Some time back, Chennai Heritage, which owns Madras Musings, was taken over by the Chennai Willingdon Corporate Foundation. As CWCF turns 20 this year, the team thought it an opportune moment to carry a piece on the institution which has contributed so much