Gujarat’s water conservation scheme meant to hide corruption in a state public sector undertaking

jalabhiyan

People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Gujarat, statement on government effort to “hide” Gujarat Land Development Corporation (GLDC) scam by launching new water conservation scheme:

The water conservation crusade, which was launched recently in May 2018 for one month by the Gujarat Government, is, as a matter of fact, a Governmental scheme, which had been going on for many years, and there is nothing new about it. The clear objective of launching it by the Government was implementation of the scheme, which was done by the Gujarat Land Development Corporation (GLDC), in which rampant corruption was unearthed.  During raids conducted by the ACB, lakhs of rupees were seized from the drawers of officers of the corporation. This was going on for years. As soon as the scam came to light, the Government made an announcement of Water Conservation crusade. Various water conservation schemes, which were earlier under the control of GLDC, were taken back and entrusted to the Narmada and Water Resources Department under the name of Sujalam Sufalam.

As a matter of fact, the Sujalam Sufalam scheme in itself was a big scam involving crores of rupees, and it came under severe criticism by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India. The Public Accounts Committee and other Government Committees also declared Sujalam Sufalam a scam, yet none of the errant persons was nabbed or given any punishment. Even then, the Government has resumed the so-called Water Conservation Crusade in the same name and style, which is indeed surprising.

In the context of this crusade, some facts which are worth noting:

  1. The Government has been carrying on, since long, Sardar Patel Community Water Conservation Scheme, and under this scheme check dams, weirs and farm ponds are being constructed in the State. Now the Government has given to the same scheme a new name, Sujalam Sufalam Water Conservation Scheme 2018. Hence it is not true that the Government has launched any new scheme for water conservation or water harvesting.
  2. Under the Sardar Patel Community Water Conservation scheme, in the year 2014-15, there were 1,65,560 check-dams, which increased to 1,68,895 in the year 2018-19. In this way, over a period of four years, the increase was of 3,335. During the same period weirs, which were 1,22,035, increased to 1,25,541, which means there was addition of 3,506. Moreover, farm ponds which were 2,61,785, increased to 2,61,988, resulting an increase of 203. Now in the year 2018, the project has been launched under the new name and style and people are being cheated.
  3. Government has stated that number of farmers in the State is 52 lakh, whereas number of farm ponds is only 2,61,875. This way, the Government has not paid adequate attention to construct farm ponds, and hence the farmers have not got water for their farming needs. Besides, it is really a major question as to how many farm ponds have been developed, because the scam of GLDC, which has come to light, itself raises a big question against its veracity.
  4. In Gujarat, there are 203 lakes, 4,30,680 check-dams and farm ponds, and more than 1 lakh ponds. As against all this, the current project was undertaken to deepen only 13,000 units only. Even when assuming that the same has been properly executed, even then it cannot be considered enough to quench the thirst of 10 % of Gujarat’s population. What about the remaining population of the state?
  5. The Government admits that 8,250 villages of the State face the problem of sub-standard quality of water, 2,791 villages have fluoride contaminated water, 455 villages with nitrate contaminants and 792 villages have salty waters. This way, a total of 10,288 villages face the problem of poor quality potable water. This means that out of 18,715 villages of Gujarat, 55 % villages do not have pure quality drinking water. If the current project is for deepening merely 13,000 ponds, when will this problem be solved?
  6. Speaking on the water conservation scheme, the Chief Minister made an announcement that “resultant fertile soil that will be generated out of deepening of all these ponds/check dams shall be offered without recovering royalty of a single paisa”. But the fact is quite otherwise. To give an example, at the Dudheeya village in Limkheda taluka of Dahod District, an amount of Rs 5 crore was allocated for the scheme and the work was executed by deploying machinery, and the soil/clay that was generated was sold at the price ranging from Rs 300 to Rs 800 per tractor load. This goes to prove that in executing this so-called water conservation scheme, lot of corruption had taken place.
  7. The Government also states that in absence of efficient ‘recharge’ arrangement, the extent of dark zone has increased. It means that the Government has not made proper execution, such that efficient management of ‘recharge’ is made possible. In case of many ponds and tanks, little attention is paid to the slope of the soil, and as a result flowing rain water cannot enter the tanks.
  8. While making announcement of the scheme, the Government said that, for monitoring it, a Committee will be constituted under the chairmanship of the Chief Secretary. If there indeed is a Committee and the same has been duly monitoring, then why did it not keep vigil on disposal of soil/clay? The Government should immediately make public the report of that Committee. Is the Government interested in stopping corruption, or is it trying to find a new face for it?
  9. Under MGNREGA, it is mandated to offer minimum 100 days’ employment to each family. If the entire expenditure is incurred under this water conservation scheme, how the employment could be provided throughout the whole year? This means that, under MGNREGA, employment will not be available in the rural areas for the entire year.
  10. Initially, school teachers were forced to work as labourers. This happened for the first time in the history of seventy years of Independent India. The party in power, which boasts of Guru Brahma, has turned them into labourers in the scorching heat of the summer!

The information contained in this statement has been taken from the below mentioned Government documents:

  1. Executive Budget Review; Narmada, Water Resources and Kalpasar Dept.
  2. Socio-economic Review, 2014-15 to 2017-18
  3. Development Programme, 2014-15 to 2017-18
  4. Outline of the Activities: 2014-15 to 2017-18
  5. CAG Report
  6. Government announcements and advertisements

Signed by

  • Sureshchandra Mehta, former Chief Minister
  • Gautam Thaker, PUCL, Gujarat
  • Pravinsinh Jadeja, former Cabinet Minister
  • Mahesh Pandya, Gujarat Social Watch
  • Dr. Rohit Shukla, Editor, “Abhidrishti”
  • Hemantkumar Shah, Eminent Economist
  • Rajani Dave, Gujarat Sarvoday Mandal
  • Dev Desai, Lokshahi Bachaavo Abhiyan
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