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New India awaits Geeta

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By Sapan Kapoor

The Indian deaf-mute girl Geeta, stuck in Pakistan for 13 long years, finally returned to India on Monday accompanied by members of the social welfare organization Edhi Foundation, who had been generously looking after her since 2003, so that she could be reunited with her loved ones.

Geeta – whose heart-rending story bears an uncanny resemblance to that of a character named ‘Munni’ in the Bollywood blockbuster Bajrangi Bhaijaan – was unable to return home, for she could not remember or explain where she was actually from.

The Indian government said that members of Edhi Foundation would be treated as guests and were welcome to stay in the country as long as Geeta’s family was identified. In fact, as soon as the plane carrying her landed at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International (IGI) airport, she was at once mobbed by an army of reporters and rubberneckers with news channels covering her every movement live.

As I write this piece, a meeting between Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Geeta is underway. She is expected to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi later today besides being hosted by Pakistani High Commission in the national capital. Needless to say, the girl must be overwhelmed with all the attention she is receiving from one and all.

While leaving for India from Karachi, in a bid to express her gratitude to the people of Pakistan, Geeta used the sign language to say she felt blessed to be in that country, as translated by her instructor Ishrat Shaheen.

“She will never forget how much love and respect Pakistan has given her.”

That’s the challenge. After the Indian foreign ministry under the leadership of Sushma Swaraj pulled out all the stops to facilitate her homecoming, we must now ensure that she is meted out with a far better treatment than she got in the Islamic Republic.

Geeta’s anxiety to return to her country as soon as possible was understandable considering the prevailing atmosphere of intolerance and violence in Pakistan, even though the Edhis treated her just like their sister and daughter.

However, in India once all the hype around her around is over and media shifts its attention to some other pressing issue, Geeta would find ample time to observe the current state of affairs in the country.

She would discover an India that is somewhat different from what she must have expected it to be. An India where a 50-year-old man is lynched for merely eating beef, where two Dalit children are burnt alive by members of an upper caste community, where rationalists are killed for their ideas, where people are murdered over beef rumours, where people are attacked with black paint for helping in the launch of a book and where freedom of speech and expression is apparently under threat.

Geeta would soon learn that her country is walking on the same path trodden by Pakistan where she spent years under the guardianship of Edhi family. She would realize that if Shahzad Masih (26) and his five-month-pregnant wife Shama Bibi (24), a Christian couple, are burnt alive following an announcement from a Mosque loud-speaker accusing them of committing blasphemy in Pakistan’s Kot Radha Kishan, Mohammed Akhlaq is beaten to death after an announcement from a temple loudspeaker accusing him of slaughtering a cow in India’s Dadri.

Besides, there are thousands of Geetas and Mehrunissas in both the countries longing to be reunited with their loved ones, reaping what their ancestors sow in 1947 when people who had been living together for centuries were divided along the lines of religion, blighting their future. Every year hundreds of fishermen are arrested by both the countries for no fault of their own.

Therefore, in the wake of Geeta’s return, I hope the governments on both sides will show similar zeal to such humanitarian issues, instead of using wretched people as a bargaining tool. Being humans, this is the least we can do.

In Mahatma Gandhi’s words,

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”

 

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Report Claims, As Many As 1 Billion Indians Live in Areas of Water Scarcity

The report also highlighted that India uses the largest amount of groundwater -- 24 per cent of the global total and the country is the third largest exporter of groundwater -- 12 per cent of the global total.

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Global groundwater depletion - where the amount of water taken from aquifers exceeds the amount that is restored naturally - increased by 22 per cent between 2000 and 2010, said the report, adding that India's rate of groundwater depletion increased by 23 per cent during the same period. Pixabay

As many as one billion people in India live in areas of physical water scarcity, of which 600 million are in areas of high to extreme water stress, according to a new report.

Globally, close to four billion people live in water-scarce areas, where, for at least part of the year, demand exceeds supply, said the report by non-profit organisation WaterAid.

This number is expected to go up to five billion by 2050, said the report titled “Beneath the Surface: The State of the World’s Water 2019”, released to mark World Water Day on March 22.

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Pure water droplet. Pixabay

Physical water scarcity is getting worse, exacerbated by growing demand on water resources and and by climate and population changes.

By 2040 it is predicted that 33 countries are likely to face extremely high water stress – including 15 in the Middle East, most of Northern Africa, Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan and Spain. Many – including India, China, Southern Africa, USA and Australia – will face high water stress.

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Globally, close to four billion people live in water-scarce areas, where, for at least part of the year, demand exceeds supply, said the report by non-profit organisation WaterAid. Pixabay

Global groundwater depletion – where the amount of water taken from aquifers exceeds the amount that is restored naturally – increased by 22 per cent between 2000 and 2010, said the report, adding that India’s rate of groundwater depletion increased by 23 per cent during the same period.

Also Read: Beware! Sipping Hot Tea Raises Risk of Esophageal Cancer

The report also highlighted that India uses the largest amount of groundwater — 24 per cent of the global total and the country is the third largest exporter of groundwater — 12 per cent of the global total.

The WaterAid report warned that food and clothing imported by wealthy Western countries are making it harder for many poor and marginalised communities to get a daily clean water supply as high-income countries buy products with considerable “water footprints” – the amount of water used in production — from water-scarce countries. (IANS)