The JMM’s hopes of a rich harvest in its stronghold Santhal Parganas could be dented in the assembly polls with the opposition highlighting region’s perennial water shortage to woo voters in state’s most arid region.
A full-fledged ‘water war’ has already begun ahead of polling in Santhal Parganas’ 18 seats, spread across six districts, on December 14 and 20.
In 2009, the JMM had won 10 out of 18 seats in Santhal Parganas but the party is facing stiff challenge from a resurgent BJP this time around.
The region has given three JMM chief ministers — Hemant Soren, Sibu Soren and Babulal Marandi — and a deputy chief minister Stephen Marandi.
But till today, merely 3% households enjoy tap water facilities in six districts, according to official sources, while 62% households are dependent on hand pumps and 28% on wells.
But even the hand pumps and wells go dry in summer due to depletion of ground water table.
The state’s ground water directorate has found overexploitation of ground water by 110% in several places besides presence of iron in some areas.
“Water is not found even below 50 feet during summer. The water quality has also deteriorated due to presence of high iron,” said Sanjay Kumar, of Pathargama in Godda district.
The state government had sanctioned a piped water project at Pathargama block five years ago, but it never took off.
The irony is, the region is blessed with several rivers and sub-rivers including Mayurakshi, Ajay, Bakhloi and Kajia.
The BJP has already turned on the heat on the JMM.
“The water situation turned from bad to worse in the region during the reign of Hemant Soren. If our government comes to power, we will ensure tap water to every house under Modiji’s central programme,” said Devidhan Tudu , the BJP candidate from Maheshpur.
JMM spokesperson Supriyo Bhattacharya pointed, however, rejected the charge and pointed out that the BJP was in power for more than eight years in the state.
“We started several drinking water and irrigation projects, what the BJP could not do till date,” he said.
Cabinet minister in Hemant Soren government Suresh Paswan, also party candidate from Deoghar, said, “During my short stint as cabinet minister, we did maximum work to address the water problem here.”