By Ignatius Joseph:
Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra Ajit Pawar’s recent insensitive statement asking if he must urinate in dams to generate water caused a huge uproar across the country. Angered by these remarks, Sanjay Kolhe, a farmer from Amravati started a petition asking the Maharashtra Chief Minister to give the water allocated to industries back to the farmers. His petition crossed 17,000 signatures in less than a week.
The campaign was launched on GreenpeaceX – an online campaigning platform hosted by Greenpeace India that allows people to start and run campaigns independently. The petition asks the CM of Maharashtra, Prithviraj Chavan to return water allocated to industries back to farmers battling the drought in Maharashtra. The petition can be found here.
People have been expressing their anger at Ajit Pawar’s crass remark about urinating in the dams and his subsequent fast to make up for the statement. Social media forums were full of sarcastic tweets and updates. There were protests in the different parts of Mumbai as well.
The state government recently announced that Maharashtra has been hit by the worst drought in the last four decades. A recent analysis by an NGO, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People, suggests that this drought is hydrologically the worst but the blame lies with the government for promoting wrong cropping patterns and unaccountable water management that prioritised industries over agriculture.
Agriculture is the biggest occupation in Maharashtra and more than 64% of the state’s population depends on the agriculture and allied activities sector. Recent research by Greenpeace has exposed that Ajit Pawar has been responsible in allocating water to industries at the cost of vital irrigation for agriculture. Now, by asking if he can urinate in the dam to help drought affected areas, he has not only cheated people of their right to water, but has also publicly insulted them.
According to recent reports from Pune based NGO, Prayas, water diversion was done in Maharashtra without consultations with the affected people as is mandated under the Maharashtra Water Regulatory Authority Act of 2005. For example, 88 percent water was re-routed to industries from Hetwane dam in Raigad district while 81 percent water was diverted from irrigation to industries from the Amba and Pavna dams in Pune district.
There are thousands of farmers who are battling the severe drought in Maharashtra. Even in this bleak scenario there are plans to allocate more water to the power plants.
The Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation in Vidarbha has allocated more than 2,000 million cubic metres of water from the rivers Wardha and Wainganga to supply water for coal power plants that generate 55,000 MW. This water can easily irrigate at least four lakh hectares of agricultural land.
Sanjay Kolhe has been involved in a struggle to save about 23,000 hectares of farmland against water allocation to the Indiabulls power plant in the Amravati district. His petition adds to the fight to protect farmer’s livelihoods. He said, “If all the thermal power plants in the state receive the water as promised by the Maharashtra government, livelihoods of farming communities, already facing distress, will be further threatened.”
It’s high time the government hears the outcry of the public and returns the water to the farmers to irrigate their fields. To support farmer Sanjay Kolhe’s campaign visit here.
Photo Credits: © Vivek M / Greenpeace.