Members of the ruling BJP and opposition Congress got into heated arguments over the implementation of the Saurashtra-Narmada Avataran Irrigation (SAUNI) Yojana in Gujarat Assembly, on Wednesday. Congress MLAs alleged large-scale corruption in the implementation of the scheme whereas Chief Minister and Leader of the House Vijay Rupani said that had SAUNI not been there, entire Saurashtra would have had to be vacated this year due to water scarcity.
The issue cropped up during Question Hour when a question related to the SAUNI Yojana raised by Congress MLA from Gandh-inagar (North) constituency C J Chavda was taken up for discussion. Chavda had asked how much was the total expenditure planned to fill up all the reservoirs of Saurashtra under the scheme.
In a written reply, Chief Mini-ster Vijay Rupani answered that till May 2019, a total Rs 18,563.24 crore was planned to be used for filling up all the reservoirs in Saurashtra. Against that, he added, Rs 12,978.64 crore was spent to lay pipelines for 867.91 km.
Following this, a discussion began on the issue and Leader of Opposition Paresh Dhanani raised several questions over the implementation of the scheme. Dhanani added that if Rs 18,563 crore was spent to fill up 10 reservoirs, it would take around Rs 1.95 lakh crore to complete the scheme of filling up the 115 reservoirs in Saurashtra. He then asked the state government to clarify how much money would be spent on the entire SAUNI yojana.
Replying to the Opposition’s queries, senior cabinet minister Saurabh Patel gave a number of figures and added that the total 20,993 MCM (million cubic metre) water was provided to Saurashtra under the scheme. He said the scheme would be completed by 2021.
Following Dhanani’s query, the CM reminded everyone of the water scarcity in Saurashtra and recalled that during Congress rule, Rajkot was being sent water by trains. He then credited Narendra Modi for taking timely action when he had been chief minister by implementing the SAUNI Yojana in Gujarat.
“(Due to SAUNI Yojana) scarcity of drinking water is gone,” Rupani said, adding that the state government was now planning to provide sufficient water for irrigation too. “The entire scheme needs to be understood in that perspective…We have done it and we are proud of it,” he added.
The discussion got heated when senior Congress MLA from Una constituency Punja Vansh used certain words alleging corruption. Speaker Rajendra Trivedi immediately ordered the remarks expunged and admonished Vansh.
BJP members from the treasury bench, including Rupani, stood up and exchanged arguments with Congress MLAs.
Dhanani rose and said that probably Vansh’s reference was to a question in the booklet regarding irregularities worth Rs 83.63 crore found in the laying of pip-elines of Narmada canals in Sur-endranagar district. In a written reply to the question, the state government stated that actions were being taken against those responsible for the irregularities.
The speaker did not allow him to speak further, saying that discussion cannot be held on a question that has not been taken up.