DECCAN HERALD Friday, April 14, 2000

Gujarat's drought condition worsens

DH News Service

Even as Gujarat reels under the worst drought conditions, Prime Minister A B Vajpayee during his two-day visit to Anand, the affluent milk capital did not as much mention the severity and neither did he visit the parched areas which had voted his saffron party to power.

Gujarat, the bastion of the BJP was accorded a meagre Rs 55 crore to combat century`s worst drought as against Chief Minister Mr Keshubhai Patel`s demand for Rs 700 crore. Even states like Orissa, Punjab and others had got a package of Rs 300 crore.

In the next fortnight, not a single drop of water will be available from existing water sources in the parched areas of Saurashtra, Kutch and North Gujarat. The first scorching summer of the millennium is set to be the worst in the past 100 years. With 8,000 villages declared drought stricken accompanied by 69 towns and three cities reeling under an unprecedented water crises.

With the barometer souring up to 43 degrees and water tables depleting, water has become the most precious and rare commodity particularly in parched Saurashtra. Falla village near Jamnagar had already tolled three people in the water riots in December last year. Thousands of cattle heads from various drought stricken areas of Saurashtra and Kutch have either migrated or have died due to shortage of fodder. Many cattle pounds are flooded with half dead and starved cattle. Gujarat government has stocked around 77 lakh kgs of fodder in over 205 depots. However, the migration continues due to inefficient distribution system.

Surprisingly, the Patel government did not submit any memorandum to the Prime Minsiter during his visit. Dr Vallabhbh Kathiria, Union MOS for Heavy Industry accompanied him during his two-day visit. Significantly, he is the Rajkot MLA which is the worst affected city. He managed to invite Mr Vajpayee to inaugurate a medical college next month.

None of the 104 dams out of the 143 dams in Saurashtra, Kutch and North Gujarat have any water. The other 39 dams have water to last for a fortnight. The Patel Government has invested Rs 311 crore water supply master plans to drill borewells, deepen existing wells, revamp water supply schemes and run water tankers.

The situation is worsening by the day. Rajkot, the biggest city in Saurashtra is supplied water every alternate day after a major agitation broke out last month. It has faced water problem during the past six months. Other towns get water twice a week, some get water every four days. According to Water supply minister, Mr Narottam Patel as many as 2,100 villages were distributed water through tankers as they do not have any ground water left.

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