The Congress on Friday slammed the BJP for “failing to bring Narmada water to the farmers” despite ruling the state for 22 years, saying that it was due to “criminal negligence” of the ruling party that only a fraction of the proposed network of canals have been built. This, the Opposition said, has resulted in an annual loss of Rs 1 lakh crore to the farmers in terms of loss of agriculture production.
Addressing a press conference, state Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki and party spokesperson Shaktisinh Gohil said that the Narmada project was planned to irrigate 19 lakh hectares of land. “But only 3.70 lakh hectares of land has been covered… Though the BJP claims that the project is completed, only 18,000 km of the total of 43,000 km of canals has been built. Instead of blaming the Congress for the delay, the BJP should be held accountable for it.”
“If we are voted to power, we will take up the work on priority basis by allocating separate fund for construction of the remaining canal network,” Solanki said.
The Congress also came down heavily on the BJP government for organising the “Narmada Mahotsava Yatra”, claiming that such a yatra is aimed to placate angry farmers and tribals, who have not received the benefits of the Sardar Sarovar Dam.
“People do not want such yatras, they want water… The yatra is facing protest because people are not getting water. Tribals living along the Narmada canal are not getting water for irrigation. Had the BJP government wanted, it could have provided them water through lift canals,” they said.
Countering claims of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that it was due to his efforts that the Narmada dam had been completed, Solanki said that the dam was conceived by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in 1946 when Modi was not even born, and its foundation was laid by first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1961.
“When the Congress was ruling the state, we never used the issue for votes. The work on the dam was stalled till 1987 because of environmental clearances. It was Rajiv Gandhi who cleared the deck by freeing 4,166 hectares from forest land that paved the way for the construction. When the World Bank, under pressure of global environmentalists refused to fund the project, the then Congress chief minister mobilised local resources by issuing Narmada bond to raise fund for the project,” Gohil said, adding 90 per cent of the canals were constructed during the Congress rule.
“Increasing the height of the dam will only help in generation of more hydro-electric power. But Gujarat, under the agreement, has no share in it. The power generated will go to Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Gujarat will get only 9 million acre feet of water, but much of it is going to the Arabian Sea with the absence of canals… Any permission regarding the dam is given by the Narmada Tribunal and Narmada Control Authority (NCA) and Prime Minister had no role in it as he is not even a member of the NCA. Hence, Modi taking claim for closing of the dam’s gates is absurd,” Gohil said.