Noted economist H M Desarda on Thursday criticised the BJP-led Maharashtra government’s flagship ‘Jalyukt Shivar’ water conservation scheme, saying it was a “contractor-driven money harvesting programme” that is causing “huge ecological destruction” across the river basins.
Addressing a press conference in Mumbai, Desarda, a former member of the Maharashtra State Planning Board, said the acute water famine in rural Maharashtra was not just because of the deficient monsoon, but also due to the failure of the public policy and lack of management of water resources.
“Jalyukt Shivar is not a water harvesting scheme, but a contractor-driven money harvesting programme,” he said.
Terming the scheme as unscientific, he alleged that the bluff has been exposed by the nature itself.
He said the scheme was causing a huge ecological destruction as heavy machinery has been deployed to carry out works across the river basins.
According to Desarda, a conference on water famine in rural Maharashtra was held in Aurangabad on February 9 and a copy of the resolutions adopted there was sent to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on February 17.
“Drought is a part of the nature’s cycle, while famine is failure of policies,” he said, adding that the Fadnavis government had come to power promising to set the water sector right.
“However, the government was insensitive towards the needs of the toiling people,” Desarda said.
He urged the state government to reserve the available surface water storage and ground water for drinking purpose only and use excess sugarcane for fodder as part of immediate measures to tackle the “water famine” in rural areas.
Desarda said there has been excess production of sugarcane, which is a “water guzzling” crop.
“Instead of giving the sugarcane crop for crushing, the government should purchase it from farmers and use it as fodder,” he said.
Desarda also called for streamlining of the public distribution system (PDS) and providing educational facilities for children of drought-affected farmers.