Calling the Sujalam Sufalam water conservation project, launched by Chief Minister Vijay Rupani on May 1 an ‘old repackaged scheme’, former BJP chief minister Suresh Mehta on Tuesday said the scheme had fooled citizens.
Mehta, addressing mediapersons at an event of People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), said that the water conservation project of the Sardar Patel Community Water Conservation had been ‘repackaged’ as the Sujalam Sufalam water conservation drive.
He said, “For the last several years, the government has been constructing check dams, weirs and farm ponds under the Sardar Patel Community Water Conservation scheme, which is run by the Gujarat State Land Development Corporation Limited (GSLDC), with an IAS officer as the chairman. After lakhs of rupees were seized from the drawers of officers of the Corporation by the Anti-Corruption Bureau a couple of weeks ago, the project was entrusted with the Narmada Water Resources Department.”
“This is nothing but fooling citizens. The safest way to hide corruption is to engage in soil excavation. While desilting can be calculated, there is no way anyone can calculate the amount of silting that happens,” Mehta said. “Where are the JCB machines and tractors coming from? Who is paying for them?” he asked. Mahesh Pandya, treasurer of PUCL, an NGO, said the month-long drive had been riddled with corruption. He said that during the launch of the drive, the state government had said the initiative would cost Rs 345 crore. But the cost was later scaled down to Rs 200 crore, even though the number of people and machines involved rose to eight times the projected number.
“As against 527 JCB machines proposed to be used initially, the numbers increased to 4,600. The number of tractors increased to 16,000 from the 2,000 planned earlier and the number of persons employed for desilting rose to three lakh from the earlier 27,000,” Pandya said, adding that the state government is yet to publish details of the money spent on the initiative.
According to PUCL, as per the figures shared by the government, the project was not even able to cater to 10 per cent of the population. It said that out of one lakh lakes, 13,000 were deepened. As against 52 lakh farm ponds, only 2.61 lakh were dug up.