A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed that 16,000 villages in Maharashtra were drought-free, the Congress on Saturday questioned the claim and even alleged corruption in the jalyukt shivar project of the state government.
Showing the findings of the Groundwater Survey And Development Authority (GSDA), Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said, “There is massive corruption in the jalyukt shivar scheme.”
A government report, prepared by the GSDA, says that the groundwater levels have depleted by more than one metre in 13,984 villages in 252 tehsils out of the 353 tehsils in the state. The October 2018 observations have been compared with the last five years’ average ground water levels in October, says the GSDA report. Of the 13,984 villages, the groundwater levels have gone down by more than 3 metres in 3,342 villages, by 2-3 metres in 3,430 villages and by 1-2 metres in 7,212 villages.
The jalyukt shivar scheme was launched in December 2014 by the Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis-led state government to make Maharashtra a drought-free state by 2019 and to enhance the ground water levels to make them water sufficient.
On Friday, Modi in Shirdi had lauded the scheme claiming that it has helped 16,000 villages to become drought-free and works under the scheme were under way in another 9,000 villages.
Sawant said the findings of the GSDA report are very serious. “The entire scheme is entangled in corruption. A judicial inquiry must be initiated to know where an amount of Rs 7,500 crore has gone,” he said.
He added that the state government must disclose the names of 25,000 villages which it claims are drought-free. “The state government has declared that number of tankers supplying water in villages have been considerably reduced by 80 per cent. But the hundreds tankers supplying water in rural parts of the state in the month October itself,” alleged Sawant.
Officials from the Water Supply and Sanitation Department said the report is submitted by the GSDA annually after the monsoon. “There was deficit rainfall this year. So, the groundwater levels are bound to go down. We need to look at data of villages with depleted groundwater levels and whether the jalyukt shivar work was carried out in the villages. The corrective measures will then be taken,” said an official.