All that glitters is not gold! The Maharashtra government that is determined and proudly willing to afford a whopping amount of Rs 3,600 crore to erect a mid-Arabian Sea Shivaji statue has suddenly become so ‘cash-starved’ that it had to beg for an interest-free loan of Rs 500 crore from Shirdi Sai Trust to complete the Nilwande irrigation project which is concerned about meeting the drinking water needs of most tehsils in Ahmednagar district. Therefore, the aforesaid adage perfectly fits the incumbent Maharashtra government, an administration which is unfortunately so engrossed in the statue building spree, whose 18,000 villages in 182 talukas have been declared drought-prone, and whose decision making potential on the prime governing concerns of the state has gone haywire as it looks like.
Along with Padmanabha Swamy Temple in Kerala, Tirupati, and Vaishno Devi in Jammu, the Shirdi Sai Trust is considered amongst the richest temple trusts in the country and it manages the saint’s resting place at Shirdi. The proposal to borrow Rs 500 crore for the long-pending Rs 1,200 crore project from the trust was cleared in a meeting chaired by Fadnavis on February 1 while the fund release order in two installments was delivered on Saturday.
Congress spokesperson Raju Waghmare stated, “There’s no certainty about how this Rs 500 crore loan will be used or will it be used or not! First thing is that the non-government organisations cannot give loans like these for any government’s purpose. This government is spending so much on unnecessary things that they don’t have money for the better and necessary purposes.”
The trust’s Chairperson and BJP member Dr. Suresh Kashinath Haware granted the request made by the Fadnavis-led state government and the reason it grabbed so many eyeballs is that this is the first when such a huge amount is accorded to a state-run corporation without interest. As per reports, although the Saibaba Temple Trust and the Godawari-Marathwada Irrigation Development have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the same, repayment of the loan so far has no fixed timeframe.
The Nilwande Dam project on Pravara River is expected to benefit 182 villages in Sangamner, Akole, Rahata, Rahuri, and Kopargao tehsils in Ahmednagar district and Sinnar in Nashik. Moreover, it also received Rs 2,232 crore under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sanjivani Yojana in June this year.
It is quite known that Maharashtra has become a home to the highest number of farmer suicide due to crop failure. Now, this year, Maharashtra has witnessed a subdued monsoon with observing scanty rains during October in a few parts of the state. These inadequate rains have resulted in arid conditions across the state which has further worsened the condition of the already grieving farmers with a dry spell after two years.
Congress MLA Bhai Jagtap exclaimed, “There’s nothing wrong in borrowing money for the irrigation project from the trust. However, the Shivaji Memorial could have waited a bit while that money would have been used for some useful purposes.”
Water scarcity in some parts due to the erratic monsoon of the state and excessive exploitation of groundwater acts as a curse and standing months away from the 2019 summer and just after the monsoon, water sources have already dried up in Marathwada and north Maharashtra making the situation nothing than worse. And, what are the after effects of this situation? They are depressing and many — the distress sale of cattle, no farm produce or damaged produce, rise in debt, spike in farmer suicides, fatal accidents while trying to draw water from drying wells and so on! Questions are also being raised whether Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan was a bluff!
Senior BJP MLA Yogesh Sagar said, “I don’t think there is any problem in taking money from the trust. The government has borrowed money and the government will repay it. Both the statue and the irrigation project will be done. If the government is getting a loan without an interest, where’s the problem?”
According to the reports in July, the Maharashtra government’s flagship water conservation scheme called as ‘Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan’, which was launched in 2016, claims to have rejuvenated water bodies and created an additional storage potential, in a state where some parts perennially face a drought-like situation. The official figures released by the government states that under the scheme, a water storage capacity of 17,27,229 TMC (thousand million cubic feet) has been created across 16,521 villages in 34 districts of the state since 2015. The data mentions that in 2015-2016, 100 per cent work under the scheme was completed in 6,202 villages.
The micro-irrigation project involves deepening and widening of streams, construction of cement and earthen stop dams, and digging of farm ponds, and gave a word to make the state free of drought by 2019. Nonetheless, the experts believe that the figures claimed by the government are contradicting totally with the reality as with the nearing of 2019 and the state is catching a sight of becoming parched. Here the question arises that is the state government not prepared enough in terms of financial resources, water management strategies etc.?
Recently, replying to PILs, the Bombay HC refused to stay the Shivaji Maharaj Memorial considering it a ‘national importance’ and the ruling government called it a ‘big relief’. Why don’t we see the same activeness and fighting spree in the government when it comes to ease the struggles of its own state people? What is more important for the government? Will the taxpayers ever get the answer?
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Majeed Memon expressed, “If the government has enough money to spend on other projects, why does it need to borrow money for helping the farmers who have been struggling for water?”