Madgul (Sangli): Bangarwadi, the 1954 Marathi classic, sits on many a bookshelf as a work of fiction. In it, well-known author Vyankatesh Digambar Madgulkar, a native of Madgul in Sangli district of Maharashtra, describes a young school teacher's struggle to retain children in his school even as scanty rainfall forces villagers to abandon the imaginary village Bangarwadi.
If Madgulkar was to write it today, Bangarwadi might not have read any different. For the arid situation in Madgul, on which he based the novel, has hardly changed in the last 58 years.
Madgul continues to be highly dependent on rain and scarcity of water turns Madgul into Bangarwadi even today.It's still a wretched life here, say villagers. "There's hardly anything to talk about Madgul except for the two sons of this land, brothers Vyankatesh and (renowned lyricist) Gajanan Madgulkar," says NB Vibhute, a teacher.
It's not as if Madgul has fallen off the map. In fact, the Maharashtra government sanctioned and started several projects to irrigate the rain-shadow regions of Sangli and neighbouring districts in western Maharashtra.
"If the government had completed various projects on time, we would not have faced hardships," says Raghunath Nagane, principal of GD Madgulkar College in Madgul village. With no water available in college toilets, Nagane fears the impending parched year may diminish students' strength.
If scheduled projects were completed, water from Krishna and Bhima rivers would have served the drought prone eastern parts. Huge cost escalations caused further delays. Ironically, the western part of this region is prone to floods while the eastern part does not receive more than 30 cm rain a year.
"The main reason for the delays is lack of money to complete these projects," says Ganapatrao Deshmukh, MLA from the region for over 40 years.
These projects, if completed, will bring more than 1.6 lakh hectare land under irrigation while addressing the drinking water problem of drought-prone villages. However, the apathy displays politicians' love for a good drought.
This year's situation has provided an opportunity for politicians to score points. Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar has been critical of Maharashtra governor K Sankaranarayanan, an old Congress member, for not doing enough for the drought-prone areas in the state.
However, irrigation department, mainly responsible for carrying out these projects, is itself facing flak. Not to mention, the irrigation department has been with Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party.