To Maharashstra Chief Minister on Maharashtra drought #MAHAdrought

A greenpeace protest at Churchgate carries the message for maharashtra's deaf government - "Thermal Plants want water, farmers need it"A greenpeace protest at Churchgate carries the message for maharashtra's deaf government - "Thermal Plants want water, farmers need it"

Dear Mr Chavan,

I am not going to talk about irrigation projects and such things that you already have practiced replying. Let us look at what is happening.

Vidarbha always seems to be reeling under drought. Rains fail, crops fail, farmers are not able to repay debts, farmer suicides happen. That is the routine story from there. You are Chief Minister of the state, so you ought to know. Vidarbha happens to be the National capital for farmer suicides. Insufficient irrigation, failing rain and your government promoting BT-cotton that requires more water than normal cotton is an important part of the crop failure.

Here are some headlines to remind you, if you had forgotten:

Last summer, Maharashtra faced drought too. If you forget the Central Sarkar team’s visit, you at least probably remember that Rajkumar Gandhi too had visited after them. The drought continued. The corrupt tanker walahs minting a fortune. Pawar had blamed Maharashtra governor, for some reason. Remember?

Cut to a news story in the Times of India on 25th August 2012 – this is when (in theory) Maharashtra gets rain. Vidarbha was facing drought. Vidarbha is mostly dependent on rain-fed agriculture. Times of India reported that 14 talukas were drought hit and sowing could be achieved on less than 50% of land. And Vidarbha was lucky with only 14 talukas hit, because western Maharashtra and Marathwada had 100 talukas between them. And we are talking of the monsoon here. It was insufficient, yes, but the water scarcity was happening even during the monsoon season. When monsoon is supposed to provide rain around the year (which has 12 months) 50-60% rainfaill may explain a shortage before the summer, but it does not explain why there is no water immediately after the monsoon.

Nagpur had received more than the average rainfall already at that point.

Fast forward to January, when VJAS raised the alarm on farmer suicides. 10 farmers had committed suicide in the first 15 days of 2013, with three of them on the 14th Jan. They released these numbers for the suicides in 2012. I admit your government disputes these figures, but little your government does leads one to imagine they actually know enough to dispute them. (Image: India Today)

Farmer Suicides per month in Vidarbha for 2012

They accused that false bills were provided for tanker water and cattle feed. What is being done to prevent deprivation of life saving resources to people as well as corruption in aid money?

But anyway, you get the idea that drought is hardly a stranger to this region. Now here are the questions:

What is the explanation for giving priority to industries over agriculture in our state water policy then? Is your government not telling a drought region where agriculture is the occupation for the largest number of people that they are on their own? The irrigation was not developed. Your water policy prefers industries. What water comes to agriculture, over 50% of it goes to the sugarcane sitting on 6% of the land. You are going to have to do some serious explaining how nature can manage such a miracle.

But this is not all. This supposedly natural drought has more such natural miracles involved.

The irrigation scam is horrendous. Ajit Pawar has signed off on the projects. You call it populist initiatives. I fail to understand how it is populist, when the populace itself is cursing you for it, while the people who got the contracts are close cronies and some of them went on to join NCP and BJP. Your coward minister walked out from this programme, but Anjali Damania asks one question. One question without any numbers in it that you should try answering. If the dams had never overflowed, why was their height (and cost) increased?

Sharad Pawar blithely declined to reduce either industries or sugarcane production in the name of profit and jobs. What jobs is he talking about?India has not added jobs in either agriculture or manufacturing since 1995. Sugarcane is the most water intensive crop, and for your idea of profit, it is being promoted in a place of drought. Take a look at this pretty graph DNA ran up along with a look at the devastating impact of the sugarcane Pawar is so attached to.

Sugarcane in drought hit areas (via DNA)

In the meanwhile, your guy in Jalna bullied off the competition to get a tanker contract without having to bid too low. he’s giving interviews in media saying how he isn’t doing it for profit. However free government tankers are a rare sight and private profiteers are thriving. What are you doing to combat this? Or, as CM, are you saying that poor people can die thristy or drink the mud they show remaining in wells and those who can afford will book tankers? Maybe it is a clever poverty reduction scheme. If poor die, we’ll automatically have less poor people. And of course, if they die from daily trips for water under the scorching sun, it is a heat death – perfectly natural, yes?

But it isn’t just about a skewed water policy or neglect, your government is overallocating resources. It seems to be allocating water that isn’t there! Consider this excellent paper with a postmortem of how you do this with regard to the Ujani Reservoir – a Lift Irrigation sceme that was supposed to be tabled on 1st February 2013 – yep. As you were giving interviews about natural droughts and regrettable populist policies, you were entertaining another con. Incidentally the study mentions that the reservoir hasn’t filled in 5 years, has 10 existing lift irrigation schemes and cannot physically contain half the water that has already been allocated from it.

If there are five flats in existence and I get you to fund 10, do you agree that it is a con? Nature does not do allocations.

Last December, the drought was on. Your government was planning water intensive power plants that would further reduce water availability in Wardha and Wainganga rivers. Do you mean to say power plants are like coral reefs – they come up “naturally”?

On the 26th February 2013 (right alongside your sweet talks on the drought), your railway minister presented the budget. In that budget, your INSANE government has proposed a Rail Neer bottling plant in Vidarbha of all places. The first day of the “Advantage Vidarbha meet” on the 25th contains a photo of you smiling magnanimously as deals are struck. Examples:  MoU are power plant equipment manufacture BHEL with an investment of Rs 2,500 crore, and Ambuja Cement with an investment of Rs 3,300 crore; Manikgarh Cements would be investing Rs 1,500 crore and Bhushan Steel would be investing Rs 1,350 crore. What part of this will increase the water available to a perpetually devastated populace? 

CM Chavan at Advantage Vidarbha

For that matter, in a place where the water table is often at 500ft, where will the water for these industries come from? Let me guess? From your miracle water policy of course! This was not Advantage Vidarbha, it was “taking advantage of Vidarbha”.

Speaking of water table, why didn’t your government invest in water harvesting? It is cheap, it is fast, it is effective, it is easy and it would heal the decimated water table of this region. Let me guess, small projects don’t have pocket liners that make them interesting?

Nature cannot explain this, unless you mean it is a natural drought brought about by the greedy nature of politicians and their cronies.

A furious Maharashtrian.

 

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Vidyut
Vidyut is a blogger on issues of National interest. Staunch advocate of rights, learning and freedoms. @Vidyut

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