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The Indian Express : National Network
  The Indian Express


Thursday, November 01, 2001  

Centre to rope in Magsaysay winner


NEW DELHI, OCTOBER 31: MAGSAYSAY winner Rajendra Singh provided water in 600 villages through 4,500 structures with just Rs 4.45 crore. Inspired, Rural Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu, who has vowed to get water for all by 2010 with his sector reforms programme at Rs 1,000 crore, has now decided to take a leaf from Singh’s book.

Naidu made the beginning on Wednesday when he felicitated Singh and announced the intention of setting up a national advisory panel which would guide the ministry in its ‘‘water for all’’ schemes.

But it goes to Singh’s credit that despite the tough time he admitted to be having with Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, who is also seeking his advice, he is looking forward to playing any role Venkaiah may find for him.

‘‘I am fighting with the Andhra Pradesh government officials including Chandrababu Naidu almost all the time. It leaves a very bad taste in your mouth. But it is not all in vain,’’ says Singh of his advisory role in Andhra Pradesh. ‘‘I am achieving a lot despite the differences of opinion,’’ he said.

With the Union Minister, he is as hopeful though he does not agree with his methods for achieving water sufficiency. On the ministry’s favourite ‘‘sector reform’’ programme, which disseminates funds through zila panchayats, he said the funds never went to water supply. ‘‘The officials ate the money or diverted it to road building,’’ he said.

‘‘I do not know which sea swallows the crores of rupees the Government invests in various schemes,’’ said Singh. ‘‘What good are roads when there is no water to irrigate your fields and when you are forced to migrate to cities to live on the streets like beggars?’’

He said in 600 villages where he had worked, people who wanted water projects had to fight with panchayat heads for money. ‘‘The problem with check dams is that these can be destroyed in rain if it not constructed properly,’’ said Singh.

Talking of the ministry’s sector reform programme, he said the total amount he and his men spent in nearly two decades setting up 4,500 projects was Rs 4.45 crore. ‘‘The main thing is not money but the will to understand the need of each community,’’ he said.

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© 2001: Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. All rights reserved throughout the world.