On Thursday, Ajit Pawar, Finance Minister of the Maha Vikas Aghadi, tabled the Economic Survey report of 2019-2020 in State Assembly which revealed that around 19,655 out of 25,000 villages had become drought-free in the State in last 5 years under the Jalyukta Shivar Project. The Jalyukta Shivar scheme also helped create a water storage capacity of 26.52 TMC (thousand million cubic feet) in Maharashtra.
The findings of the report directly contradict the claims made by the State Water Resources Minister, Jayant Patil, on February 21 who said that the work executed as parts of the project were “substandard” and of “poor quality.” The Maha Vikas Aghadi has decided to scrap the project but added that it was not “intentionally” suspending the project taken up by its predecessor.
The Jalyukta Shivar Project was started by ex-Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in 2015 and 19655 villages had been rendered drought-free at an expenditure of 9,448 crores. The scheme facilitated deepening and widening of streams, construction of dams, digging of farm ponds and work on nullahs.
“Almost 10,718 works incurring the total expenditure of Rs 617.67 crore was through public participation to Jalyukta Shivar”, noted the Economic Survey.
The Survey also highlighted the success story of another project, Farm Pond on Demand, that has helped in increasing productivity. It was also initiated by Fadnavis to provide sustainable and protective irrigation facility during critical stages of growing crops.
Professor Rajendra Singh, an expert in water management involved in Jalyukta Shivar project, said, the shortcomings are not in the scheme but its implementation. He also advocated for a strict monitoring mechanism.
The former Chief Minister Devendra said, “The success of Jalyukta Shivar is due to the support of common villagers. It had become a water movement. The drought-stricken villagers saw individuals raising funds to drive the scheme.”
Last month, the Maha Vikas Aghadi had courted controversy by proposing to extend the contentious 5 per cent reservation for Muslims across educational institutes in the state. It is pertinent to note that the Shiv Sena was amongst the political parties who had vehemently opposed the reservations based on religion in Maharashtra but owing to the changing political dynamic.