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    Published On : Fri, Jul 11th, 2014

    Drought looms large over Vidarbha; Farmers fear ill-fate

    pic-32Nagpur News.

    ” After Vidarbha joined Maharashtra, if it had got 28% of total state funds meant for agriculture and irrigation and 32% of funds for development, proportionate to our agriculture land and population percentage of the state of Maharashtra, as promised in the ‘Nagpur pact’  Vidarbha would have been more prosperous and agriculturally developed than even Punjab; Instead, due to utter neglect it is fast turning into a desert” opined Nitin Ronghe, a young BJP leader of Nagpur and someone who has studied the Vidarbha issue in detail over the last two decades.

    Nitin Ronghe

    Nitin Ronghe

    “Vidarbha is well endowed by nature; it gets abundant rainfall and has fertile soil falling as it does in the basin areas of two major Indian rivers – Godavari and Tapti. Vidarbha has major tributaries of the rivers like Kanhan, Wardha, Wainganga, Wenganga etc.but lacking political will these water resources are not being harvested properly” he added.

    Vidarbha has huge tracts of the very fertile black cotton soil; oranges growing here are famous all over the country as ‘Nagpur oranges’. tur, soyabean, paddy, chillies are other cash crops that had made farmers of Vidarbha very prosperous once, before the vicious cycle of neglect and exploitation began in the 1960s itself.

    Nagpur must be the only city in the world that gave up its status as a Capital city of a large state, to become the unheard of till then, ‘second capital’ of the smaller state of Maharashtra that was to be totally dominated by politicians from the Mumbai, Pune, Nasik belt. These same politicians, while persuading Vidarbhites to join their state had promised this region ‘ most favoured’ status. ( “Jhukte map” – balance tiltinwater is controversially allocated in advance to incomplete projects and coal-fired power plants, thanks to open corruption. All this leaves no way out for the farmer to move a limb and ultimately affects the overall irrigation potential of the region. Needless to say, most of these industries have political affiliations which manage to crush any opposition the locals would have against these projects. The Lower Wardha project is an excellent example, which was supposed to be the source of irrigation water for farmers in the Wardha region and a little beyond. But now it’s in the middle of a controversial water allocation to an unfinished thermal power plant in the region, managed by Lanco Power Ltd. g in your favour – they had pledged).

    Today, the reality on the ground is that of the total backlog of irrigation in Maharashtra, 96% backlog is from Vidarbha, 2-3% from Marathwada and 1% from Konkan. A really tilting balance indeed – weighing against Vidarbha! The backlog of pumps for irrigation is a mind boggling 6 lakhs! An instance of unfairness – Pune District alone uses more power units for pumps than the entire Vidarbha region put together.

    To add insult to injury, according to a report of Greenpeace “water is controversially allocated in advance to incomplete projects and coal-fired power plants, thanks to open corruption. All this leaves no way out for the farmer to move a limb and ultimately affects the overall irrigation potential of the region. Needless to say, most of these industries have political affiliations which manage to crush any opposition the locals would have against these projects. The Lower Wardha project is an excellent example, which was supposed to be the source of irrigation water for farmers in the Wardha region and a little beyond. But now it’s in the middle of a controversial water allocation to an unfinished thermal power plant in the region, managed by Lanco Power Ltd. ”

    If the present scenario is not bad enough, SEVENTY ONE new thermal power stations are on the anvil in Vidarbha as per the plans of the State Government. TPS burn coal to generate power through steam turbines using up huge amounts of water. An approximate estimate says as much as 5000 litres of water are needed to produce a single MW of power. Who are these power plants meant for? Certainly, not the industries and people of Vidarbha which would have surplus power from the three mega super thermal power stations of Nagpur and Chandrapur if it did not have to ‘share’ it with the rest of the state.

    When drought situation hits, as is bound to happen this year – farming will be the last priority for usage of water from the few dams that we have. It could very well be a tussle between water for drinking and domestic use and water for these thirsty power plants that keep the industries of Western Maharashtra running. When even drinking water becomes scarce, some people with means can afford to migrate with their families to other areas, but for most rural and agrarian people, this is not possible. They have to stay put and face the dire situation and when going gets too tough, do what farmers of the area have been doing – commit suicide.

    Six farmers of Marathwada region have already taken their lives since they faced the prospect of re-sowing and did not have the finances for it. It will not be long before cotton farmers of Vidarbha share this sorry fate. If rains are delayed by even a few more days, it will be impossible to sow cotton, which has to be harvested before winter sets in and requires at least four months to mature. Soil conditions are often not favorable for any other crop like soyabean or paddy, other traditional crops of Vidarbha.

    Drought situation also means not enough fodder and water for cattle, so maintaining them also become untenable which a heart breaking situation for any farmer that owns cows and buffaloes.

    The worst tragedy for the Nagpur, Amravati, Chandrapur , Yewatmal and other districts of Vidarbha is the paucity of effective political leadership. There is a Sharad Pawar for Pune-Baramati, a Chagan Bhujbal for Nasik, a Rane for Konkan, Thakerays for Mumbai and there was a Vilasrao for Latur. There is no leadership like that here. When Nitin Gadkari from Nagpur became PWD Minister, the one achievement he can boast of is the Mumbai- Pune freeway; what enduring gift did he give HIS region except some (undeeded) cement roads and a flyover or two?

    Devendra Phadnavis, may be the BJP President for the entire state but as far as Nagpur and Vidarbha are concerned he will remain a politician ” who shows promise.” The promise is yet to realize and it is not known what stance he will take for the creation of a separate Vidarbha once the Vidhan Sabha elections have taken place.

    As Nitin Ronge puts it – if a separate state of Vidarbha does not come into being in the next two years, it will be too late for most of us. The death knells have begun sounding.

    — Sunita Mudaliar


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