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Thar’s dilemma

Opinion

October 19, 2018

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Last week, Chief Justice Saqib Nisar asked me to brief the Supreme Court about the real situation in Tharparkar, the country’s most backward and underdeveloped district. Since I belong to the region, the honourable court was quite interested to hear what I had to say.

I told the apex court it is quite unfortunate that no one has bothered to design a long-term policy for residents of Tharparkar for the last 70 years. Whatever short-term measures were taken, almost half of them had fallen prey to corruption and mismanagement. Poverty and the economic recession have led to a series of continuous suicides, food shortage and loss of innocent lives of children. The number of child casualties has increase to 500, as per an estimate.

Similarly, there are certain media reports that suggest around 50 people have committed suicide over the last two months and the same number of children have lost their lives. Every religion requires its followers to take special care of innocent animals. But we often see the skeletons of animals on the roads of Tharparkar who have lost their lives due to hunger and thirst.

During my briefing, I requested the chief justice to take notice of the situation in the Thar Desert. A small portion of the Thar Desert is in Pakistan while the remaining part of the desert is in Rajasthan, an Indian state. While Rajasthan is known as a prosperous state of India, we have made the Thar Desert in Pakistan a backward area that is the source of only negative news.

Geographically, Thar is among the largest deserts of the world. Hindus and Muslims are living happily in both sides of the Thar Desert for centuries. At the time of Partition, when there were horrific riots everywhere, Thar had the privilege of witnessing peace and stability.

Historically, Thar’s name has been derived from ‘Thal’, which means salt in the local language. The Thar Desert also has a great historical and cultural importance in Hinduism. In the Ramayan, it is called ‘Lavan Sagar’ (Salt Sea). There are many Hindu temples and samadhis throughout the Thar Desert.

Earlier, Rajasthan was known as Rajputana (the land of kings). Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, is an attractive location for historical and cultural tourism. According to an international survey report, Jaipur is among 10 famous tourism spots of Asia. Jaipur not only has an international airport, but it is also connected with Delhi and other cities through road and railway routes.

Similarly, the second largest city Jodhpur also has numerous historical and cultural sites. Its delicious dishes, especially sweets, are famous worldwide. The local economy has been stabilised through the sale of handicrafts, textile, bicycles, ink, sports products, carpet, and marble products. Gypsum and salt are considered to be the country’s two major exports. Similarly, there is a large market for wool and agricultural products. In simple terms, the main industries of Rajasthan are mineral-based, agriculture-based, and textile-based. Rajasthan is also the second largest manufacturer of polyester fibre on the national level.

The literacy rate of Rajasthan is also admirable and the people of Rajasthan actively take part in different sports. During IPL, the Rajasthan team plays under the title of Rajasthan Royals. Similarly, Nagpur – another city of Rajasthan – is famous for its marble, which has been used in the Taj Mahal. Rajasthan is also considered an appropriate place for gas, coal mining and hydropower development projects.

A network of rivers and lakes has been designed to irrigate the dry land of Rajasthan. Anand Sagar Lake, Ana Sagar Lake, Doodh Talai Lake, Fateh Sagar Lake, Gadisar Lake, Pushkar Lake, and Talab-e-Shahi are some famous tourist spots. A number of Bollywood and Hollywood blockbuster movies have been filmed in Rajasthan to present the Indian culture and heritage.

Meanwhile in Pakistan, the Thar Desert is the most unfortunate region where innocent lives are being lost every day. I have requested the honourable chief justice to constitute a committee under an honest officer like Naheed Durrani. The committee must comprises the secretaries of health, education, livestock, revenue, food, agriculture, tourism, and mines and minerals who must jointly devise methods to tackle Thar’s crisis.

In order to enable Tharparkar to play an active role in national development, we must also ensure the provision of clean water, promote education, and improve healthcare. Strengthening the agricultural sector and the mines and minerals sector must also be our top priorities. I am sure that we will arrive at a meaningful solution to Thar’s dilemmas this time.

The writer is a member of the NationalAssembly and patron-in-chief of thePakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani

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