At Atal Bhujal Yojana launch, PM Modi’s lesson on the art of communication
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was talking at the launch of Atal Bhujal Yojana, a scheme at panchayat level for ground water management, named after India’s former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee
Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Rs 6,000 crore Atal Bhujal Yojana on Wednesday for panchayat-led ground water management and behavioural changes to reduce the demand for water.
The prime minister, who has placed water conservation on the top of his government’s agenda, spoke about the creation of the Jal Shakti ministry for a holistic and focused approach on water management and urged start-ups to innovate to reduce consumption of water before he turned to conservation of water by farmers, the largest water user in India and the world.
Farmers, he said, needed to understand that it was time to move away from the practice of flood irrigation to micro irrigation or drip irrigation. But this is something that will need to be conveyed to farmers in a manner that they can make sense of.
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PM Modi, whose skills as a political communicator are acknowledged even by his critics, explained by way of an example. If there is a malnutritioned child, you can prepare a bucket of milk with all the nutritious ingredients and use it to give him a bath. He will still remain weak as before.
But instead of a bath, if you use a spoon to feed the child just 200 ml of milk, he will be stronger. “Now this is something that the farmer can understand, can relate to,” PM Modi, who had used similar examples to get his point across through his speech, said.
Like when he asked people to use a bucket for a bath rather than a shower. Or when he spoke about people leaving the bucket upside down under a tap so that they wake up when the municipal water supply starts early in the morning.
PM Modi also recalled how he had tried to get sugarcane farmers in Gujarat to shift to drip irrigation and stressed that it had led to improved yields and higher sugar content. That meant more money for the farmers.
Drip irrigation is a method of micro-irrigation that releases small amounts of water at regular intervals at the roots of any crop. It is used extensively across the world for sugarcane, one of the two biggest water-guzzling crops in India, along with paddy.
Uttar Pradesh (which has the largest area under cane), Maharashtra, Gujarat, Bihar, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat are the largest sugarcane growing states. In states where sugarcane is grown, it consumes between 60-70% of the available water.
“It is the plant that needs water. But the farmers tend to water the soil… The farmer doesn’t know because we haven’t explained it to him properly,” PM Modi said.
And people at large, particularly farmers, he said, had to play a lead role under the brand-new Atal Bhujan Yojana that he had just launched. The scheme would focus on improving ground water level in over 8,300 panchayats across seven states - Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh - where the situation is worrisome.
In the course of his speech, PM Modi reiterated his government’s target to reach piped potable water to every rural household by 2024. Only 18% of households in the countryside now have piped water supply.