As Maharashtra reels under severe drought, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis' flagship project — JalYukt Shivar Abhiyan — has come under severe criticism from Oppoistion parties, the Congress and the NCP.
While senior Congressman and Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil threatened to file a PIL in the Bombay High Court, his counterpart in the Council and senior NCP leader Dhananjay Munde wanted a break-up of the Rs 7,500 crore spent so far.
In separate press conferences on Thursday, the Congress and the NCP lashed out at Fadnavis and the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance government over the project.
The scheme, formally launched on January 26, 2015, aims to make 25,000 villages drought-free by 2019.
The programme was launched with an aim to conserve water in farms (shivaar), increasing water levels, enhancing irrigation areas, efficient usage of water for farming and drinking, revival of water supply projects, effective implementation of ground-water regulation and public awareness on water management.
Fadnavis, however, dismissed the charges earlier this week when he announced prevalence of a drought-like situation in 180 tehsils of the state, saying "those questioning the programme are insulting the farmers and villagers."
"Jalyukt Shivar is a scam... It is JholYukt Shivar... I am collecting data, village by village... I will speak on it," Vikhe-Patil said, indicating that the issue would be raised during the ensuing winter session of the Maharashtra legislature. "The only thing remaining is to file a PIL in the Bombay High Court," said Vikhe-Patil.
Meanwhile, former Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Shirdi last week claimed that 16,500 villages were benefitted because of JalYukt Shivar.
"Which are these villages?," he asked and pointed out that more than 21,000 villages are facing drought. "They are just engaging in jugglery of figures," said Pawar, the nephew of NCP supremo Sharad Pawar.
The Congress and the NCP also questioned the new norms of drought declaration.
To declare scarcity or drought, the government earlier used to depend on the 'paisewari system' also referred to annewari. 'Paisewari' in Marathi means "value of the crop."
In every village, prior to the harvest of the kharif crop in October, the tehsildar, along with officials from the Department of Agriculture and local farmers, would estimate the crop grown. If the crop yield is less than 50% of the average of the last 10 years, then it would be considered a drought year.
However, in December 2016 the system was replaced by the Manual for Drought Management, which includes four impact indicators and 13 sub-indices trigger indicators.
"These are difficult... perhaps only Aryabhatta would be able to explain it," added Munde, pointing out that they would resist from making allegations, however, it is high time the government explains where the Rs 7,500 crore was spent in the last three-and-a-half years.