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If Maharashtra is facing its worst drought in 40 years, can neighbouring Gujarat be far behind?
The impending crisis — which has hit three of Gujarat’s six regions, Saurashtra, Kutch and north Gujarat — was obvious since December but it had managed to elude the eyes of the state government.
And now, while chief minister Narendra Modi is busy selling his development model across the country, at home, thousands are walking miles under the scorching sun to get water to drink.
Around 250 dams in Saurashtra and Kutch are dry or about to go dry. The scarcity has hit more than 4,000 villages and nearly 100 towns.
On March 26, revenue minister Anandiben Patel said 3,918 villages across 10 districts (out of 26 districts) had been declared “scarcity hit”.
The government, Patel said, would supply water tankers and the forest department would provide subsidised fodder. But it was a case of too little, too late.
In most of the drought-hit areas, people don’t get water even once a week.
Saurashtra’s Amreli town gets a one-hour supply of water once a fortnight. Botad and Ghogha towns in Bhavnagar get water once in 20 days.
Over the last 20 days, bandhs were observed in Amreli and Junagadh. At the end of March, the BJP legislator from Junagadh, Mahendra Mashru, held a five-day fast.
“For four months, parts of Rajkot city have been facing acute shortage,” said a local, Bhavesh Boricha. The main sources for water are the Aji and Nyari dams, which are almost empty.
“All dams in Amreli district are empty as well. We use bullock carts to bring water from my field, which is 5 km from the town,” said Bipin Radadia, a resident of Babra village of Amreli district.
The situation is worse in rural areas. Farmers and cattle breeders of Saurashtra and Kutch are moving to south Gujarat.
“There was scanty rainfall last year and the crisis was looming since December,” said former chief minister Keshubhai Patel.
A senior official in the state secretariat, however, said the crisis was as much man-made as natural. “Just before the assembly polls, the CM had inaugurated the Navda Botad Narmada pipeline project for Bhavnagar, but not a drop of water reached, since the pipeline is only half finished,” he said.
The opposition Congress has lost no time in picking up the issue.
On April 10, a Jal Yatra is to be launched from Dwarka in Jamnagar district.
“Instead of providing water, the chief minister is lecturing people on development and good governance,” said Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil.