Nagpur: Gondia district is called as ‘Rice Bowl’ of Maharashtra and farmers in the district are mainly the paddy growers. Rice crop needs water in massive proportions. But even after existence of 40 years, sufficient water has not reached the farmers in Bhandara-Gondia district. Farmers here depend on the mercy of Rain God even today. Good rain brings smile on the faces of farmers but drought stares their faces when rains play truant. To sum up, the fortunes of farmers in Gondia district at the mercy of Rain God. For this very situation, farmers are unable to reap rice crop twice in a year and had to be content with paddy crop only once. This results in income taking a hit and reports of suicides pouring in from this Naxal-affected district in East Vidarbha.
Many governments came and went in the past four decades but nobody cared to resolve water crisis issue then it may be Congress or NCP or BJP. Now Lok Sabha poll at the door step and the issue of half completed irrigation projects is raising its head. But the farmers in the affected areas of the district have decided to bar entry of leaders coming for campaigning.
Half completed projects:
It is pertinent to recall that Gosikhurd Project has not been completed since decades. And the inter-state Bawanthadi Dam, constructed at the border village Kudva in Katangi Tehsil of Balaghat district in MP and Tumsar Tehsil of Bhandara district in Maharashtra is proving to a be damp squib as far as benefit of irrigation is concerned. The 31 metre high and 6 km long dam is of no use to parched farmers as they are not getting water in sufficient quantity. On the other hand, water of second phase of Dhapewada Lift Irrigation Project is being supplied to Adani Thermal Power Project leaving farmers high and dry.
Furthermore, Rajegaon-Kati Lift Irrigation Project on Wainganga River has not been completed as yet. The tale of Nimgaon Minor Irrigation Project and Chulband project is no different. Apathy by the political leaders has left these projects half completed and is also the reason for financial backwardness of farmers. The farmers are very much angry over the shoddy affairs and the ruling as well opposition parties are likely to face the heat in this election. The irrigation problem has emerged as the main issue and could prove decisive in the April 11 polling.
35-year old truth of Gosikhurd Project:
The notification for approval of the ambitious Gosikhurd Irrigation Project on Waignaga River in Paoni Tehsil of Bhandara district, being termed as mile stone for green revolution in Nagpur, Bhandara and Chandrapur districts, was issued by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi way back in 1983. The approximate cost of the 11.35 km long dam during Rajiv Gandhi government was Rs 372 crore. The project was slated to be completed in 1990. But even after 35 years, the project is still in limbo as the problem of rehabilitation of 5 villages of Bhandara district and 10 villages of Nagpur district has been resolved.
Zero irrigation but expenditure at its peak:
Till the year 2010, a whopping Rs 11,500 crore have been spent on land acquisition and rehabilitation of 104 villages of Bhandara district, 85 villages of Nagpur district and 11 villages of Chandrapur district for construction of Gosikhurd Irrigation Project.
Once completed, 2,50,800 hectares of land in these three districts would reap irrigation benefits. However, after spending over Rs 15,000 crore and 90 percent work, the Rs 70,000 crore irrigation scam raised its ugly head and rattled the State. Intense political battles were also fought over corruption in Gosikhurd project in the last election. Now, as the bugle for 2019 Lok Sabha poll has been sounded, farmers have started raising questions on Gosikhurd Project. Even after 35 years, why water has not reached their fields? is the question pricking the politicians.
By Ravi Arya