Specials

State of denial

RUTAM VORA | Updated on January 27, 2018 Published on May 13, 2016

Chief Minister Anandiben Patel VIJAY SONEJI

bl13_drought

The administration has been slow to respond to the crisis

Ahmedabad: The rap on the knuckles that the Supreme Court administered the Gujarat government earlier this week for its “ostrich-like” attitude to the drought situation is an urgent wake-up call for the administration.

For, even as the people of Gujarat struggled through a severe water scarcity, the administration had all along adopted a short-term approach, and its responses were almost always leaden-footed.

It was only in April that the State government acknowledged the gravity of the water scarcity in five districts. Agriculture experts point out that the warning signals were available soon after the monsoon withdrawal last year, when the State faced deficient rainfall and crop losses in parts of Saurashtra.

“Scarcity is not new in Saurashtra, but even after so much of budget allocations (for water-related projects), the situation hasn’t changed,” says Mansukh Chopra, a farmer leader from Jamkhambhaliya.

The Gujarat government has over the years made huge allocations for the implementation of irrigation and drinking water schemes.

The overall size of the annual development plan increased by 190 per cent in the past five years; the budget allocation for irrigation and flood control increased at a slower (but still significant) 152 per cent.

To what effect?

However, questions are being raised about the efficacy of these allocations. “After all the planning and expenditure, the situation has not changed,” alleges Paresh Dhanani, Congress MLA from Amreli. “The government isn’t concerned. Even after being humiliated in the highest court, the Gujarat government has not set up district-level scarcity committees.”

Acknowledging the many problems that assail the farmers –– escalating costs of fodder, water and other farm inputs, crops lying unsold because they don’t fetch good prices –– Chief Minister Anandiben Patel resolved to increase farmers’ income four-fold through value-addition of farm produce.

But at the launch of the State-wide Krishi Mela, the annual agriculture fair, on May 9, the Chief Minister failed to address the more immediate pain of water scarcity in other parts of the State.

Her speech struck a jarring note for its complete disassociation from the current stark reality that demands urgent attention. “This is a pro-farmer government and we have brought for you various welfare schemes for agriculture,” she said. “Let us resolve to achieve the objective of ‘Wealthy Farmer, Happy Farmer’ by adopting newer farming technology and organic farming.”

Published on May 13, 2016
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