Each states have been ruled by the BJP for no less than 15 years, however when Madhya Pradesh not too long ago shot down neighbour Gujarat’s request for extra water from the River Narmada, no one was shocked.
“Narendra Modi got here to my village and stated ‘the farmers of Gujarat can harvest gold by utilizing Narmada water.’ That was earlier than the meeting election in December,” stated Valji-bhai, a farmer in Saurashtra’s Jamnagar district. “However now that the election is over, as a substitute of getting extra water, our current provide can be being minimize off.”
The monsoon 5 months in the past was a beneficiant one in comparison with latest years. However Gujarat is headed for its worst water disaster in almost 20 years. The Narmada, India’s third-longest river, originates in Madhya Pradesh and flows alongside the border with Maharashtra earlier than coming into Gujarat and flowing into the Arabian Sea close to the town of Bharuch.
The biggest of the 30 main dams on the Narmada is the Sardar Sarovar Dam, situated proper earlier than the river empties into the Arabian Sea. That is Gujarat’s major supply of water. This 12 months, as a result of the rainfall within the Narmada catchment space in Madhya Pradesh was low, all of the dams on the river got lower than their common provide.
The federal government of Gujarat says storage within the dam has dropped by 45 p.c. Madhya Pradesh says given its personal paucity, it can’t share extra Narmada water with Gujarat.
There’s one more reason why Gujarat’s plea has no probability of drawing the specified consequence. It has voted; Madhya Pradesh will accomplish that later this 12 months. In December, a resurgent Congress lowered considerably the BJP’s standing within the Prime Minister’s house state. The losses for the BJP accrued primarily within the rural areas of Saurashtra, reflecting farmer unrest and anger. It’s a warning with advantage for Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who, at age 58, is looking for a fourth consecutive time period.
“He’s backed by the BJP authorities on the centre,” alleges Congress chief Alpesh Thakor from Gujarat, “which desires to supply most Narmada water to the farmers in Madhya Pradesh, after which, when it’s time for the subsequent Lok Sabha polls, they’ll as soon as once more begin shedding tears for the farmers of Gujarat.”
Mr Chouhan is confronting anti-incumbency and prices of non-deliverance particularly in creating jobs. In 2015, there have been about 16 lakh unemployed youth in Madhya Pradesh. Final 12 months, that quantity shot upto 24 lakhs, a rise of 53%, in accordance with the state’s financial survey. Within the report, this statistic speaks volumes: solely 129 folks obtained authorities jobs in 2016.
However it’s final 12 months’s widespread protests by farmers, which noticed 5 of them being shot lifeless in clashes with the police, that looms over Mr Chouhan’s ambitions to return to energy. The farmers wished loans to be waived and higher costs for his or her crops. Their strike started with greens and milk being unloaded on highways and smaller roads. Because the protests grew, the police opened hearth in Mandsaur, the epicentre of the motion. The anger stays unabated there. 4 of the farmers who died have been from the Patedar or Patel group. As soon as loyal to the BJP, the Patels on this latest election in Gujarat noticed a division inside with youthful members turning to the Congress, particularly within the rural heartland.
The Patels type about 9 p.c of Gujarat’s inhabitants and 5-6 p.c in Madhya Pradesh, the place they heartily endorsed the motion led by 24-year-old Hardik Patel towards PM Modi in Gujarat for not together with the group in affirmative motion insurance policies in Gujarat.
In an try and appease the Patedars and the farmers’ foyer, and to keep away from a re-run of Gujarat the place farmers largely voted towards the BJP in December, Mr Chouhan this week introduced a slew of schemes that embody the federal government guaranteeing a better worth for wheat and paddy. He additionally stated irrigated land will almost double (from 36 lakh hectares to 60 lakh hectares) with out specifying a time interval.
This plan is closely depending on the Narmada. The federal government says that regardless of a poor 12 months for the river, all this shall be potential – it isn’t simply pre-election pratter. “We’re asserting irrigation schemes in order to be higher ready. It is about water conservation, constructing reservoirs, canals, in order that we higher ready for our farmers,” stated Lal Singh Arya, a minister in Madhya Pradesh.
In attempting to gather all of the water he can get to attract votes, Mr Chouhan is borrowing from the technique utilized by Vijay Rupani and the BJP management in Gujarat forward of December’s election. They projected the brand new Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada because the one-stop answer for all of Gujarat’s water issues, claiming it is going to present consuming water to over 100 cities and greater than half the state’s 18,000 villages. The dam can be anticipated to irrigate massive chunks of farming land in 15 districts.
The aggressive spotlighting of the Narmada means the state has ignored most different water sources for which it’s now paying the worth – particularly with a recalcitrant Madhya Pradesh making it clear that it’s going to not share simply.
“We can’t be completely depending on the Sardar Sarovar mission. The Naramda water ought to be seen as an add-on of native sources of water and never as the principle supply,” stated B N Navalawala, the advisor to Gujarat Chief Minister on water administration. “Everyone seems to be speaking in regards to the Narmada, however the Tapi river which flows westward into the Arabian Sea is the driest it has ever been within the final 40 years.” (The Tapi irrigates massive tracts of land in Surat and Valsad districts of South Gujarat.)
Farmer organisations in Gujarat allege that the federal government knew in October that there was inadequate water within the Sardar Sarovar reservoir and that a big disaster was imminent, however hid the reality due to the state election. It was solely final month that the administration made the unprecedented announcement that Narmada water is not going to be obtainable for irrigation after March 15 (it will likely be reserved to provide consuming water). Farmers have been suggested to not sow crops in the summertime season except they produce other sources of water like borewells, constructed at their very own expense. From right this moment, three districts have been instructed that their provide of Narmada water is being minimize off – forward of the March 15 deadline the federal government has set for the state.
Sanat-bhai, a farmer in Ahmedabad district, says had the federal government been candid in regards to the water scarcity proper from the start, farmers like him wouldn’t have planted the rabi or winter crop in October-November which is water-intensive. As an alternative, he says, the December election in Gujarat meant that the reality was hid.
“Usually, the water provide is minimize off in June-July. Whether it is stopped in March, our crop will die. We’ve no alternative however to search for different work as shortly as potential. Migration has already begun to Surat and Mumbai,” he stated.
Latest reviews within the Gujarati media have claimed that PM Modi’s much-headlined seaplane trip from the Sabarmati riverfront (developed as a vacationer vacation spot by him) in Ahmedabad to a dam in North Gujarat on the final day of campaigning was enabled as a result of the river acquired extra water from the Narmada dam than it ought to have. “They need to have stopped in October, as soon as the gravity of the water scarcity grew to become recognized, and preserved each drop for consuming goal within the coming summer season months” says Sagar Rabadi, a senior consultant of a farmers’ rights group. Chief minister Vijay Rupani made positive that the Aji Dam in his constituency of Rajkot, Saurashtra’s largest metropolis, was crammed to capability. (The pipeline to deliver the Narmada’s water to Rajkot was laid in a file 7 months in time for the meeting polls. The BJP received 6 of the eight seats within the district.)
The state authorities has dismissed all such allegations as politically motivated; it additionally refutes the opposition’s claims that farmers are being disadvantaged of water which is covertly being equipped to business.”Proper now we’re giving the business 50% lower than their quota of water so it is a lie that water meant for irrigation is being diverted. Apart from the Ukai dam, all different dams in Gujarat have enough water from final monsoon for farming functions. The Narmada water will solely be used for consuming,” stated Parbatbhai Savabhai Patel, the state’s Water Minister.
The BJP management has described the Narmada because the lifeline of Gujarat, however with its authorities in Madhya Pradesh at its most susceptible in recent times, the competing claims over the river are starker and extra consequential than ever earlier than.