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‘Online water bill payment system will ease the woes of people’

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Babanrao Lonikar is the Minister of Water Supply and Sanitation in Government of Maharashtra. Mr Lonikar represents Partur-ManthaVidhan Sabha Constituency in Legislative Assembly of Maharashtra. He belongs to the Bhartiya Janata Party.He spoke about how citizens will benefit from the online water bill payment system and how the government is taking steps to resolve the water scarcity in the state. Here are the excerpts of the interview with our Group Editor Vaidehi Taman.

Babanrao Lonikar

Water crisis is prevailing all over Maharashtra, how do you plan to resolve this issue? People residing in rural areas do not have access to internet.So who will derive benefit from this online scheme?

Maharashtra Jeevan Pradhikaran Yojana which controls drinking water supply in village, panchayats, municipal councils and corporations of the state, in which we are providing 56-schemes throughout Maharashtra.

People willing to pay their water supply bills or new connection fees for the Jeevan Pradhikaran but they  have to travel to cities or have to stand in long queues for the entire day. People can make online payment of their bills through web portal and using mobile phones.

We have also recently started Maharashtra Jeevan Pradhikaran offices at divisional levels to save time in the movement of files of schemes related to regional water supply.

What hurdles people were facing while paying the bill before the introduction of Jeevan Pradhikaran scheme?

People had to undergo huge inconvenience as they had to travel large distances for obtaining a new water connection, installation of new pipelines and installing water purifiers. For example, a person from Palghar had to travel all the way to Pune, to get it done. Now, there will be an officer in each division, that will look at all issues at the same place.

People’s life will become easier by opting for online payment option.

Online payment is a welcome move, but what about the water supply to these places?

There are total of 1606 tankers operational in the areas where water crisis exists, though they don’t provide filtered water. Nashik division has 191 tankers, Pune has 152 tankers, Marathwada-Aurangabad division has 1,288 tankers, whereas Amravati has only 5 tankers.

There are many small villages which has boring water systems in which the water levels have gone drastically down to 200-500 meters. We have provided double solar water pumps to get water supply from these borewells.

Recently, we have seen many tankers mafia’s operating in Maharashtra? Howdo you track or monitor the movement ofthese tankers?

For the first time in Maharashtra, we are fitting GPS monitoring systems in all the tankers providing supply to the water crisis hit areas, from which we will track the movement of the tankers online from starting point to the destination including the kilometres covered by it. This will help us tackle the issue of illegal supply of water by tankers.

What services are provided in the 17 solutions provided by the government?

The government had sanctioned Rs. 500 crores for resolving water scarcity problem and various tasks which are undertaken include cleaning of mud in wells and pipelines; repairing of any leakages, constructing water ways, etc. Under these schemes we are providing funds for the construction of wells, borewells or new pipelines.

What is your take on the irrigation scam of Maharashtra?

The earlier government sanctioned Rs. 70,000 crore for irrigation expense but water scarcity continues to persist.The government is yet to pay money to farmers for the land acquired from them. There is an independent inquiry happening in that matter and truth will be unveiled soon.The erstwhile Congress-NCP government had sanctioned construction of a well at Jalna for which Rs. 500 crore was spent. However, the concerned officials did not follow norms and spent Rs 100 crore on it. The project became unviable since it cannot retain water hence it is likely to be scrapped.

How is the BJP government planning to help the farmers who suffered from this scam?

We have built 5000 water storage ponds, and we have sent JCB and Pokland machines from all over Maharashtra in Marathwada.

Maharashtra was lacking an independent water supply policy hence, we had to rely on the centre government for all the sanctions. Recently, we have introduced the Mukhyamantri Gramin Pani Purvatha Yojana under which 1000 crores were disbursed.

What is the reason behind deficient rainfall in Maharashtra?

The state which used to receive 100 days of rainfall receives only 100 hours now due to climatic changes. You must have noticed that Konkan region receives good amount of rainfall as compared to other parts of the state.This is because of massive tree plantation activities undertaken in the region.

Whereas trees like Gulmohar and Almond exist in Marathwada which can’t attract rain. We have planted 20,000 trees after coming to power with the assistance of several NGOs.

What are the awareness campaigns the government is running?

We are using a grassroots level force for spreading awareness about water scarcity. We are seeking help from the religious singers of Maharashtra like Kirtankars, Abhang singers and other devotional singers, who have very strong understanding about the problems faced by people.

Compiled by: Akshay Redij

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Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Taman an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with three Honourary Doctorate in Journalism. Vaidehi has been an active journalist for the past 21 years, and is also the founding editor of an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, and The Democracy digital video news portal is her brain child. Vaidehi has three books in her name, "Sikhism vs Sickism", "Life Beyond Complications" and "Vedanti". She is an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, OSCP offensive securities, Certified Security Analyst and Licensed Penetration Tester that caters to her freelance jobs.
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