On Tuesday,about two dozen farmers from villages surrounding Ahmednagar city marched to the district collectorate along with their bullock carts where Distict Guardian Minister and State Tribal Development Minister Babanrao Pachpute was holding a Janata Darbar.
They demanded that instead of convening meetings,he should visit the drought-affected areas so that “he realises the inadequacy of government efforts to tackle the situation”.
“In my village,about 75 per cent of the population depends on tanker water. Water brought by two tankers is distributed only to the main village with distant hamlets remaining thirsty. We struggle to get drinking water,” said Babasaheb Jadhav,a farmer from Akulner village,who participated in the bullock cart protest.
Among the 15 drought-hit districts in the state,Ahmednagar is one of the worst affected. Here one can see only barren fields with almost no standing crop anywhere. According to data with the office of district collector,218 villages and 559 hamlets in the district depend on water supplied by 243 tankers. Thirty-three depots are being run to supply fodder at subsidised rates to farmers so that they can sustain their animals till the onset of monsoon. A total of 8,500 metric tonnes of green fodder have been distributed till now. Eleven cattle camps have also been opened where 925 animals are staying.
While the officials claim they are doing their best to tackle the situation,villagers complain of lack of government effort and sensitivity. In Ahmednagar taluk,which is one of the water-rich areas in the district with 157 percolation tanks,76 village ponds,today about 55 villages and 150 hamlets depend on tanker for drinking water. The collector’s office receives dozens of requests from villages for supply of tanker water and opening of fodder depot nearer to them.
“We have been requesting a tanker for the last three weeks. Two days ago,the officials surveyed the village and promised us that water and fodder supply would be provided,” said a distressed Pandurang Shinde,a farmer from Buradgaon.
According to government norms,every cattle will get 15 kg fodder per day while a young animal will get 7.5 kg fodder per day. “Currently,one fodder depot has been opened in each block which has about 8-10 villages. This should be increased to one depot for three-four villages as the depots do not have adequate supply. We have to travel 10-20 kilometres to get the fodder,” said Bajirao Avari from Imampur in Ahmednagar taluk.
The story is the same in Karjat,Sangamner,Parner,Shrigonda,Pathardi and Jamkhed taluks. In Karjat taluk,which is home to Kukadi project that is one of the biggest dams in the state,about 22 villages and 103 hamlets depend on tanker for drinking water.
In Parner taluk,35 villages get tanker water supply,while in Pathardi,five villages and 10 hamlets depend on tanker water. Villagers claim that the tanker supply is not regular.
Ahmednagar district collector Sanjiv Kumar says,”We have dug 105 new borewells and have repaired 230. The situation is worst in Ahmednagar and Sangamner districts. We will have to add at least 40-50 more tankers to meet the increased demand. New fodder depots are also being opened. We are hoping the rains start in two-three weeks. Once it rains,even sporadically,the situation will improve.”
Meanwhile,the twin model villages of Ralegan Siddhi and Hivare Bazaar that are known for watershed development work are also facing water scarcity this year though not as severe as in the rest of the villages in Ahmednagar district.
Hivare Bazaar villagers have decided not to sow any summer crop because of water shortage. “We have enough water for drinking and for livestock. But our dams and tanks are exhausted,” said village deputy sarpanch Popatrao Pawar.
Situation is not different in Ralegan either. “All our storage has run dry,we only have water for drinking. The water shed work has led to high water table in the area and thats why our crops are still green,” said Ralegan sarpanch Jaisingh Mapari.