Decided on May 11,2016

Swaraj Abhiyan Appellant
Union of India And Ors. Respondents


MADAN B.LOKUR, J. - (1.) Lokmanya Tilak said: "The problem is not lack of resources or capability, but the lack of Will." This lack of Will is amply demonstrated in this public interest litigation under Article 32 of the Constitution, in which the States of Bihar, Gujarat and Haryana are hesitant to even acknowledge, let alone address, a possible drought -like situation or a drought by not disclosing full facts about the prevailing conditions in these States. A candid admission does not imply a loss of face or invite imputations of ineffective governance ­ it is an acknowledgement of reality. An ostrich - like attitude is a pity, particularly since the persons affected by a possible drought -like situation usually belong to the most vulnerable sections of society. The sound of silence coming from these States subjects the vulnerable to further distress. During the hearing of this public interest petition, no one alleged a lack of effective governance, only the lack of an effective response and therefore we are at a loss to understand the hesitation of these States. Ironically, towards the fag end of the hearing, Gujarat finally admitted the existence of a drought in five districts ­ a fact that could have been admitted much earlier. But at least, it is better late than never. However, Bihar and Haryana continue to be in denial mode.
(2.) It is not as if a drought is required to be declared in the entire State or even in an entire district. If a drought -like situation or a drought exists in some village in a district or a taluka or tehsil or block, it should be so declared. The failure of these States to declare a drought (if indeed that is necessary) effectively deprives the weak in the State the assistance that they need to live a life of dignity as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
(3.) To compound the problem, the Union of India has introduced the concept of 'federalism' and canvasses the view that a disaster requires the Union of India to primarily provide financial assistance and any other assistance if it is sought by the State Government. A declaration of drought and its management is really the concern of the States. Surely, if a State Government maintains an ostrich -like attitude, a disaster requires a far more proactive and nuanced response from the Union of India. Therefore, in such a state of affairs the question that needs to be asked is: Where does the buck stop?;

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