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Arid Saurashtra wants politicians out

By Deepal Trevedie
Gandhinagar, April 30



They have had enough of politicians. Now they just want water. Water-deprived people of Saurashtra and Kutch reeling under the century’s worst drought, are fed up with politicians rushing to the affected regions, claiming to be their saviours.

For a change, nearly 44º Celsius temperature doesn’t seem to bother the concerned politicians who are making a beeline to the drought-affected regions. Of course, the photo opportunities are abundant but the drought victims want to be left alone with concrete relief work than hollow assurances from different politicians.

When AICC treasurer Ahmed Patel visited drought-affected Sayala on Saturday, he was bluntly told: “We don’t want politicians, we want water.” Union home minister L.K. Advani visited the drought-affected areas on Sunday. Special pandals were erected overnight for the “comfort of the relief workers” in view of Mr Advani’s visit. “These shelters from sun have come up just because Mr Advani is coming here. They will be gone soon after he leaves,” a local official admitted.

Mr Advani said the controversy over the Sardar Sarovar Project on river Narmada “needed to be resolved to help mitigate water scarcity in Gujarat.” He expressed hope that the project, which has been hanging fire for several years due to strong opposition from the Narmada Bachao Andolan, would be resolved soon. Once the issue is resolved, Gujarat would certainly get water from the Narmada, he added.

Water-thirsty population of Saurashtra and Kutch is irked by the constant flow of netas who come, inspect the muster rolls, ask a few questions about the relief work and speak to the drought victims. “Everybody invariably asks about the wages we get. All of us invariably tell that them of how poorly paid we are. Last 10 days, we have told this thrice but nothing has happened,” says an underpaid worker at Sirvania village relief camp.

“If the neta is from the panja (Congress) party, he speaks about how the Lotus (BJP) and Keshubapa has failed in taking any concrete steps. If he is from BJP, his focus is on how the Congress never gave importance to any watershed development programmes,” says Ramubhai Mori of Sayala in Surendranagar district.

“L.K. Advani and Ahmed Patel were here this weekend. Most of the day, the local administration was answering queries and trying to spruce up for Mr Advani and Mr Keshubhai Patel’s visit. These visits of politicians is affecting the relief work operations in a big bad way,” says a drought victim from the Surendranagar district.

The list of the politicians who toured the region and had great photo opportunities with the hapless public dying for a few precious drops of water is impressive. So far, at least 10 MPs from other states, four ministers and a host of other political leaders have already visited the drought-affected districts of Surendranagar, Rajkot, Jamnagar, Kutch, Patan, Rajkot Banaskantha and Bhavnagar.

While Ahmed Patel visited on Saturday, Mr Advani made it on Sunday. Mr Arun Jaitley will tour drought-affected areas on Monday and Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday. In between, two three-member parliamentary committees comprising Mr S.S.

Ahluwalia, Mr A. Sahu and Mr Anant Dave were “officially sent” for a firsthand report on Saurashtra just like Mr T.N. Chaturvedi, Mr Sangpriya Gautam and Mr Haribhai Chaudhry are touring Sabarkantha and Banaskantha. The Communist Party of India’s Basudev Bhattacharya, Mr Rupchand Murmu and Mr Praditya Sengupta have already visited Surendranagar, Bhavnagar and Rajkot.

“There has been one positive reaction to so many out-of-state politicians visiting Gujarat. Chief minister Keshubhai Patel who had not stepped to any of the scarcity hit areas has been now compelled to move out of his air-conditioned residence,” says former chief minister and Congress leader Amarsinh Chaudhry.


 
 
 
 

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