23 Apr 2016 18:27 IST

Dipa’s Rio win and Latur’s crowd-funding

Villagers of Janwal, in the Marathwada region, return to their homes after fetching potable water from a distant well. Vivek Bendre

These inspiring stories prove that private enterprise is flourishing and trumps state machinery

Dipa Karmakar’s journey to Olympics qualification in gymnastics is an inspiring story of guts and perseverance. Not only did she have to overcome the problem of flat feet (a handicap in gymnastics), her success came despite the administration’s lack of interest in her prospects.

One has to just read about the drama that followed her arrival in Delhi after the Rio qualification. Even as officials of the Gymnastics Federation of India (GFI), supposed to be responsible for promotion of the sport in the country, waited at a hotel to felicitate her, the sportswoman was taken away to the Sports Authority of India complex. There, officials from SAI and the Ministry of Sports honoured Dipa with the biggest of accolades, and also ₹30 lakh for training in the run-up to the Olympics in August. In no time, as Indian Express reported, the GFI officials alleged that Dipa has been hijacked.

Dipa Karmakar performs at the Olympics qualifier

Dipa and those who have been backing her all these years, know very well the story of Ashish Kumar. A promising gymnast, Kumar had won medals for the country in the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. But his trip to the Olympics stage was cut short, allegedly because of infighting in the GFI.

A similar script has played out for many an Indian sportsperson. Winning against odds, and overcoming official apathy. And it is not just in sports. In the last one week, there was another such instance of private initiative triumphing over administrative failure.

Water crisis in Latur

The present water crisis in Latur might have been the worst that the people have seen in their lifetime. But such a crisis is not new to the people of Maharashtra’s Marathwada region. Given its location (on the Deccan plateau) the region gets less rain than the national average. Groundwater availability is among the lowest in the country. A Latur resident’s childhood is often filled with trips to wells in nearby villages to get water.

The natural disadvantages apart, Latur’s water woes are man-made. The spurt in the number of water-guzzling sugar mills; 52 per cent leakage in water-supplying pipes and unchecked urbanisation are all the result of poor planning and the lack of will power among politicians and bureaucrats. This happened despite political stability in Latur; the Congress has ruled the region for years, helped by the popularity of its late leader, Vilasrao Deshmukh.

It is only now, when the situation has become grave, that the administration seems to have woken up. Its solution? Trains bringing water to the region. Though there are some initiatives such as rain-water harvesting and irrigation methods that consume less of the precious resource, none offer a long-term solution.

That is why, in April, a citizens’ initiative in Latur to widen and deepen the Manjara river, the vital source for water, has gained immense popularity. Within a week of its launch, Jalyukt Latur had raised ₹3 crore of the total budget of ₹7.5 crore. The initiative, spearheaded by some influential residents of Latur, depends on crowd-funding. And it has got contributions from school and college students, employees at factories, several trade and industry associations and even women’s organisations. Though some have questioned the scientific basis of the river project, the intensity and commitment of the people are endearing and heartening.

It is clear that private enterprise still triumphs in India.