Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar said on Saturday that the state’s present drought-like situation could turn into a greater calamity than Maharashtra’s drought of 1972.
Pawar was speaking to the media after a meeting with his party leaders and district cadre to review the scarcity scenario. He said that while there have been forecasts of rain for the next four months, the rainfall predicted was not satisfactory.
“In the last couple of days, the situation seemed to be improving but in big dams like Jaikawadi and Ujaini, water storage is at an all time low... told the party cadre their only mission in the coming months should be drought management,” said Pawar.
The 1972 drought has been cited as the worst faced by the state so far, with a severe shortage of food grains crippling around 30,000 villages. Unlike 1972, the big scare this time is water scarcity, affecting drinking water for over 15,000 villages besides water and fodder for cattle. The overall live water storage in dams across the state is 44%, which is the lowest in six years.
Pawar, who leads the Empowered Group of Ministers on drought, said Gujarat had done a good job by focussing on water conservation and had spent Rs3,000 crore in the last three years on building cement check dams, farm ponds etc. He added that Maharashtra had also sought funds for similar water conservation projects.
Pawar, in his speech to the party cadre, defended two of his senior ministers Chhagan Bhujbal and Sunil Tatkare, who have been facing allegations of corruption. Without naming the ministers, Pawar said that if leaders had independent businesses that didn’t have any bearing with their public life, there was no reason to target them. “I have gone through the allegations against our colleagues and there is no truth in them,” he said.