Shankar Jadhav has been camping at the annual cattle fair in Koregaon, Satara district, for the last 12 days, but is yet to find a customer for his cow. The drought has paralysed activity at the month-long fair as only 32 animals being sold since April 24, less than 15% of the average business.
The drought, perennial in this rain shadow region, has been a lot more severe this year. But Jadhav says, “Had the government done some work decades ago when projects were announced, we would not have had to face hardships.”
The picture does look rosy on paper. Some of the projects undertaken by the Maharashtra Krishna Valley Development Corporation, which oversees irrigation projects, can be described as showpieces of the ability of state’s civil engineers, but they have been stuck in political wrangling, their costs multiplying manifold, even as some 700 villages from Satara, Sangli and Solapur districts are yet to receive clean drinking water.
Ironically, the region has had representation from political heavyweights like Yashwantrao Chavan, Vasantdada Patil, and current Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar and state chief minister Prithviraj Chavan.
The projects, though ambitious — they will bring more than 1.6 lakh hectare land under irrigation — have been awaiting completion for decades. Irrigation projects like Mhaisal-Tarkari, Tembhu and Urmodi have consumed more than Rs7,500 crore. But only 30% work has been completed on Tembhu and Mhaisal-Tarkari dams, while Urmodi canal is still at halfway mark.
When the Tembhu project was sanctioned in February 1996, its estimated cost was Rs1,416 crore, which has now escalated to Rs 3,800 crore. As for the Mhaisal-Tarkari project, which was sanctioned in 1984 for an estimated Rs700 crore, the cost has gone up to Rs1,800 crore.
“The main reason for delay in execution of work is lack of consistent flow of money,” said Ganapatrao Deshmukh, who has been a state legislator from Solapur for more than 40 years.
On Tuesday, Chavan led an all-party delegation to the Centre seeking more funds to finish projects in western Maharashtra.
Meanwhile, Ramchandra Lengre, a farmer from Man in Satara wonders whether he would able to see lush green farmland in his life.
“Politicians often tell us during election time that they have envisioned major projects. But on the ground, we have not seen anything,” he says.
Advocate Machhindra Patil, an activist from Sangola taluka of Solapur, says, "These projects have already crossed their estimates by 10 times, and there is no guarantee of them providing benefit to those in affected areas. They are no longer commercially viable, and thus I have decided to file a PIL on the issue.”