Putting the intolerance row firmly behind him, actor Aamir Khan on Wednesday announced plans to lend his star power to the Fadnavis government’s flagship Jal Yukt Shivar or the Drought Free Village Scheme, which aims to provide sufficient water to every village in the state. Khan’s Paani Foundation, which has aligned with the country’s leading industrialists for the cause, will partner with the state to scale up the initiative in a big way through effective communication and training.
On Wednesday, Khan along with Fadnavis, flanked by industrialists such as Aditya Birla Group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla, managing director of Bajaj Auto Rajiv Bajaj, film-maker Rajkumar Hirani and television show Satyamev Jayate’s director Satyajit Bhatkal, announced his latest social venture, which he said had been in the making for the past eight months.
Paani Foundation, which comprises the same team that works on Satyamev Jayate, will have these industrialists, Hirani along with chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries Limited Mukesh Ambani and cricketer Sachin Tendulkar on board. Ambani and Tendulkar were not present at the press meet.
While Khan was asked a question about whether he had put aside differences with the BJP government, Fadnavis stepped in to take this query to avoid another potential political controversy. “I think every issue need not be made controversial and sometimes we can have positive news.’’ The chief minister also clarified Khan was not the brand ambassador for the scheme, perhaps to avoid an unfavourable comparison with the actor being dropped as brand ambassador for the Incredible India campaign in January this year.
“When we were working on Satyamev Jayate, we could see the show had a tremendous impact on ground zero. Since then, we have been thinking about how we can contribute further in nation building or tackling certain issues. We thought why not focus on just one topic and take it forward completely. We chose water and Maharashtra, because both of us [Khan and Bhatkal] are from the state. It is our ‘janmabhumi’ and ‘karmabhumi’,’’ said Khan.
For starters, the foundation will organise a Satyamev Jayate water cup, a competition among 300-odd villages from three talukas of three districts — Koregaon in Satara, Ambejogai in Beed and Warud in Amravati — as a pilot to be launched from this March. The competing villages will be able to send five villagers from every village to get a month’s training from experts with the foundation in water shed management. They will then have to replicate the measures learnt in their village to conserve water before the onset of the monsoon. The three best efforts will be give prizes of Rs 50 lakh, Rs 30 lakh and Rs 20 lakh. This will eventually be scaled up across all drought-prone districts. The idea behind the competition, Bhatkal said is to spur youngsters to do positive and transformational work in their villages. The winners will also get presented as water heroes in the country, and their success stories will be broadcast on television and in documentaries.
Fadnavis’ Drought Free Village aims at making 25,000 villages drought free by 2019 but another year of water scarcity in 2016 could break the government’s back and this optimism.
Khan said he will dedicate as much time and focus on this project as he does for his films. In the offing are plans to have a celebrity mentor for every taluka, which participates in the water cup, a 360-degree communication campaign and a digital platform that will allow online donations to villages after allowing one to monitor the status and requirement of the ongoing work.