SWARAJ ABHIYAN (I) Vs. UNION OF INDIA & ORS.
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
Union of India And Ors.
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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
(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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