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Narmada water to quench Saurashtra's thirst

GANDHINAGAR: Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel announced on Wednesday that trains carrying Narmada water would begin plying from Bharuch on May 23 to different scarcity-hit parts of Saurashtra such as Surendranagar, Wankaner, Rajkot, Jamnagar and Hapa.

The announcement which came immediately after the weekly Cabinet meeting, was more a symolic gesture in view of the sentimental value the Narmada waters have for the rest of the state, the chief minister insisted.

A reluctant state government had earlier agreed to start several water trains from two different points under Central pressure, as it thought trains or ships could not help the state tide over the water scarcity.

Even as he denied that the move had political overtones, his ministerial colleague, state home minister Haren Pandya said it had both political and sentimental value.

To run once in three days on an average, depending on the time available on the broad gauge that would carry the train, the chief minister said, in all, the 70-odd tankers, to be filled up at Janore on the banks of the Narmada, would take about 1.4 million litres per day of water to Saurashtra. The water would be filled from the intake wells of the Gujarat Narmada Fertiliser Corporation, he added. Keshubhai would personally flag off the Narmada train on May 23 at Bharuch.

The water will in due course also be taken to different parts of north Gujarat, including Mehsana, Kadi and Kalol, the chief minister said.

Asked how much waters each of these cities or villages would get, he said, The villages en route will be free to take water from the train.

Already, seven trains -- five from Khodiyar near Gandhinagar to Jamnagar and two from Rajula in Amreli district -- are supplying water to the state's parched areas. In all, 10 MLD of water are being supplied this way. Each train trip costs about Rs 5 lakh to the Indian Railways. It is not known who will bear the costs for the Narmada train: the Indian Railways or the state government, as there is no approval yet from the Centre.

Former finance minister and associate of former chief minister Shankersinh Vaghela, Congress leader from Kutch Babubhai Meghji Shah has called the Narmada train as nothing but a gimmick. Calling it an attempt to generate false symapathy, he asked, Why are people being fooled like this?

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