‘Where have the waters of Sardar Sarovar Dam gone?’: ask farmers in Gujarat

Khedut Samaj (Gujarat)  General Secretary Sagar Rabari’s open letter to Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani:

Congratulations to you for returning to power, which may be more due to the failure of the Opposition rather than to success of your policies. May I say that I have a special reason to write this letter as the situation in the rural areas of the state is turning grim and explosive.  It is hoped that you will consider impartially the issue I am raising here and rise above political divide, think seriously to take immediate decisive steps to meet the situation.

Your government has suddenly announced that the farmers would not get water for their summer crop as there was a shortfall of water in the Sardar Sarovar dam! It was also necessary for the government to make some clarifications, such as,

1. What has caused the water shortage as it was reported that the dam was overflowing? Farmers have not consumed water for their monsoon crop and now they will get it only for the winter crop. In the circumstances, what has the water been utilised for? The gates of the dam were closed in September and large areas were submerged. After all this, how come the water from the dam has vanished? Is it not farmers’ democratic right to know where has their share in water been used up? How is it, that water is not available for the post-election summer whereas it was available for pre-election summer?

2. Amidst the claims of e-governance and digital India, why has the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam website not uploaded the details of the available stock, distribution and consumption of water? It needs to reiterated that the entire project shaped up using the hard-earned money of the farmers/people. Do they have no right to ask the government, (1) what was the quantum of water released everyday in the canal? (2) what percentage of the water was used for drinking purpose? (3) how much of it was spent on agriculture? (4) what percentage of it was sold to the industrial units? (5) how much water was released to the river front? (6) what percentage was diverted to the Gift City?(7) what percentage was transferred to Adani Seth’s Shantigram and Cansville’s golf course?

It is important for the people to know these details as there were newspaper reports indicating that 50% of the water released into the canal from the dam was not accounted for. Where did this water stock go? According to the research-based global standards 8% to 10% water gets evaporated, but where is the rest of the 40%? Here, I would like to draw your attention that often the farmers are accused of water pilferage using machines. Is it believable that farmers stole the 40% of the water stock? If it were true, then the farm production figures should be going up; instead they are either stable or moving downward.

The truth is, the farmers are being blamed for drawing water beyond their assigned quota so that it can be used to cover up the illegal supply to the industry; the practice earns its reward in form of gratification! Also, this provides a shield to the real culprits who hide behind the farmers. Why not take the first steps in Gujarat to make India corruption-free? Do you not think that this calls for an independent inquiry? I am sure such an inquiry will not be ordered. If at all it is ordered many skeletons will fall out of the closet but your political compulsions will never let you order an inquiry.

3. Narmada tribunal set up to resolve the Sardar Sarovar dam dispute allocated 9 million acre-feet (a/f) water for Gujarat. Out of the 9 million a/f the share of drinking water supply for 9,490 villages and 173 urban areas was 1.06 a/f. Farmers have not asked, and indeed, do not ask for curtailing this share. Out of the total stock, 7.74 million a/f was meant for irrigating 18.45 lakh ha. Of farmland. Now, the irony is, the gates of the dam were closed, the dam was dedicated to the nation, Narmada Gaurav Rath toured village after village, and at the end we are told that there was not enough water in the dam! How much area out of 18.45 lakh ha did this water irrigated? Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam is flagrantly cheating the people.

Their website does not show how much area got the water; it only talks about the ‘potential’ which does not at all mean that the water was actually supplied. We wonder how a government corporation can indulge in such cheating. Why is the Nigam not telling the people that they have been able to supply   water to so much area and the rest is due to get it when the construction of the canal is completed. Is it not people’s right to know when is the entire area of 18.45 lakh ha going to be covered? If we follow the word ‘potential’ as the Nigam’s website indicates, only 9,87,776 ha was to going to have water by 31 December 2017. Nigam knows the truth better; the potential has not reached even the 50% mark and yet there is no water for the summer crop.

If the present water accounting is to be believed it may be surmised that the entire stretch of 18.45 lakh ha is likely to get water only once for the winter crop! Does this mean that farmers should stop dreaming of water for their winter crop? Where did the water go if it was not consumed for irrigation?  People and villages know that your party and the government love industry, that’s all. We respect your right to have the views of your choice, but why do your party and the government play hide-and-seek? Or perhaps the hide-and-seek is indulged in because you think it is your moral duty to protect the right of a handful of officials who gain undue benefits.

4. It was decided that 0.20 million a/f out of 9 million a/f would be used for industrial purpose. Mr. Navlawala stated in one of his speeches that the Nigam was providing 0.25 million a/f to the industry in 2014. Today we are living in 2018 and many more industrial units have been getting the water which means now much more water than the quota goes to the industry. Always, the government strengthened its case before the tribunal and the Supreme Court by claiming that the farmers in Saurashtra, Kutch and North Gujarat needed water for irrigation. Now there is water and yet the government refuses to supply water for irrigation! It has come to light that Coco Cola would be given 70 lakh litres of water per day.

rabari
Sagar Rabari

Is Coca Cola more important for the people of the state than wheat and rice? Who is preaching this extreme love for the nation/nationalism that people should manage without wheat and rice but must have Coco Cola? As the leader of the state you should obviously be concerned with the prosperity, security and law and order. Along with this, the security also means food security, security of people’s resources, security of their livelihood. Please think honestly and calmly – are you really protecting security in the real sense of the term? Is it correct to hand over of people’s resources – water and land – to the industrialists, and yet boast of protecting people’s security? Instead of generating employment for the youth, those you are handing over resources to, are capturing land and water – for what? Is it for tilling the land? Farmers have a right to know how much water, at present, is given to the industry, and to what extent you are going to curtail their supply. Will your helplessness allow you to curtail it?

5. Farmers and the people of Gujarat would like to know:

  • How much water is being released from Narmada canal for the Sabarmati River Front just to please foreign dignitaries? What quantum of water was released for the river front during the year and what quantum would be released in the succeeding years? How much of the area under cultivation can be irrigated from that quantity?
  • How much water is being given for Canswille and Shantigram golf courses and for other purposes? How much of the area under cultivation can be irrigated from that quantity?
  • How much water is wasted on such pompous exhibitionism?
  • How is this water spared? Is it from the allocation for irrigation?
  • Some areas of the state have been de-commanded; what is the plan for using water which is now surplus?
  • If Rajasthan could provide irrigation facility to its 2,50,000 ha of land out of its meagre share of 0.5 million a/f, why has Gujarat not been able to move forward from such a big share? What is the Nigam’s responsibility for this failure?
  • Will the Nigam clarify what the dam and Water use manuals have determined?

It is, of course, a different matter that you have neither time nor the sensitivity to find out how the industrialists who capture people’s resources exploit the young generation of Gujarat. If only you were so sensitive, the young people engaged in auto industry would not have suffered what they did!  Thanks to the amended labour laws and absence of strong leadership their voice does not reach you but it does not at all mean that workers in Gujarat are a happy and protected lot. It is a good idea to find time and listen to the sad stories from the youth.

6. Why did Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam fail to complete the work on canal for all these years? When will it complete, or will it ever be able to do so? Does the Nigam really intend to give water for irrigation? In our view, the unfinished canal work is not the consequence of the lack of financial resources; it springs from the conspiracy to scuttle the work and then hand it over to the industry under the pretext that it is futile to build a canal since there is no sufficient water to feed it. From political point of view is it more advantageous, as a part of a long term plan, not to build canal and drive a wedge between the regions (urban v rural)?

7. It is a talk of the town that water is being sold out to the industry under the pretext of evaporation, and that some big names are involved in this scandal. Could this not be looked into? Are you in a position to set up an inquiry in the matter?

8. Can we ask you why pipeline is being laid in command areas if there is no water for distribution? If you can declare the names and addresses of contractors, people would come to know who makes money out of it. Can you order an inquiry?

9. Why is it that while all old irrigation canals are safe, the damage is reported only from the newer canals? Is it rats who settle in the canals by boring holes in them? Are they really rats or the corrupt practices flying in one’s face? You will come to know a lot if only you study the canals that never have had a drop of water.

10. Can your government declare statistical data of the type and the number of employment provided by the industrial units? Can you give figures of those who lost their employment because the land and water were transferred to the industrialists? It is necessary to know the cost-benefit ratio of the employment. Can you do it?

It may be pertinent to say that the irrigation projects, including the Sardar Sarovar dam were not constructed from the pockets of any political party or industrialists. Everyone has made sacrifice in its construction. Thousands of tribal families of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat lost everything for it to come up, and farmers, cooperative bodies and people have paid for it. It was for the irrigation on 18.45 lakh ha and drinking water that Adivasis sacrificed everything, not for corruption or the greed of the industry and its opulent exhibitionism.

Medha Patkar, leader of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, had been telling the Gujarat farmers that the dam was not coming up for them. It was for the industry, and the tribals are being uprooted only to provide water to industry.  Your government has proved that activists do not lie; political leaders and governments do. Today, Medha ji’s statement wrenches farmers’ hearts.

As if it were not enough, your decision also proves the warning issued by the World Bank that “if there is no proper planning, there would be water wars by 2020.”! The way the water is being given away to industrial units, thoughtlessly and recklessly, we apprehend that, may be, in not too distant future you might as well cut the drinking water quota. We have heard the story that the French queen Marie Antoinette had, while seeing the hungry people, made the notorious statement: “If there is no bread they should eat cake!” You, or your ideology, as it appears, could well advise us to drink Coco Cola if there is no water!  Is the RSS philosophy and upbringing so much in contrast with the Bharatiya Samskriti?

If this decision is prompted by the sense of revenge of the defeat of your party in the recently concluded elections, your plans are to go haywire.  If the intention is to use water as a weapon of political threats, the government is in for a shock. Perhaps, urban population is yet in the grip of BJP’s religious fanaticism and imaginary fear, and caught in the greed believing that the government would give their children jobs by snatching farms and water from the farmers.

The urban middle class, suffering from self-delusion, victim of the deteriorating educational system, literate but hardly educated, is unaware of the changing trends of the world. They do not realise that there is no job in this era of automation and Artificial Intelligence. If there were jobs in the industrial sector their children would not have been jobless despite the plethora of vibrant summits, and the capture of land and water by the industrialists.

The World Bank, the foremost votary of industrialisation now shouts from the rooftop that employment is in the reducing mode; the conventional sectors such as agriculture, cattle-breeding, fishery and forest products are the ones where the job opportunities have to be explored. In the face of this warning, it is ironical that the urban class of Gujarat has become a silent partner in the exploitation of resources in the false hope of getting jobs for their children.  While the rural Gujarat understood the unemployment and inequality emerging from the loot of the resources under the garb of cultural nationalism boosted by religious fanaticism and caste wars, the urban Gujarat is yet to recognise it. Amidst the claims of development the growing unemployment and economic inequality is a matter of concern for the future of Gujarat; how long can you cover up the reality by the empty pomp and show?

One more thing. We see the building standing on SG highway called High Court is only body of the judiciary, its soul died the day when judges accepted housing plots at throw away prices. If the soul of justice had been alive innumerable pending cases would have been decided. Today, no judge is willing to rule against the government and putting the cases on backburner. Whether it is prompted by greed or fear, people are not aware of but there is a growing feeling that one does not get justice in courts (for this, I am going to write separately to the Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court). At present, the people feel, the soul of dictatorship has gained control of the body of democracy and guides it.

Under your rule, police does not let people come out, government does not listen and there is no justice in the High Court. That is the predominant feeling! What an irony? Once the people lost confidence; where would they head to?

Water from Karjan irrigation project goes to industries, Shetrunji reservoir water is not available for irrigation, Narmada water is also for the industry. All water projects; meant for irrigation, but it is industry which enjoys priority on water now!  Farmers in Fatewadi, and Shetrunji take recourse to agitation, you need to agitate to get the Narmada waters, people go on indefinite hunger strikes, lose faith in the democratic system. What is the necessity of such a tough test of our patience? Now that the winter is at its fag end and people are harassed as the water is being denied, it is a bad omen for the coming months of April and May.

In the circumstances, please do not be surprised if you may have to face a very big peoples’ movement around that period. It is not impossible if the situation fulfils prediction of our eminent poet Umashankar Joshi: “Bhookhyaa Jano no Jatharaagni jaagshe, Amiro tani bhasmakani naa laadhashe” ( the fire of hunger from the bellies of the hungry will rise; even the speck of ash of the rich will not be found).  The coming generations would learn that it was the RSS philosophy, and upbringing,  and the capitalist-loving government of its political wing BJP, that were responsible for pushing the peace-loving, non-violent Gujarat on course of fiery violence; people were not at fault.

The government may not like to reply to this letter or even discuss its content but it is hoped that at least it will take the trouble to read it. This rather long letter is meant to document the facts. Of course, if the government, keeping aside the political differences is willing to discuss the issues based on facts, we shall welcome it and join the discussion. Let people know the truth, let people do justice.

While summing up, let me emphatically remind you again that the Assembly elections are over but 2019 Lok Sabha elections are not far in the future. Water belongs to farmers. Water supply being given to the industry, whether legally or illegally, will be stopped, except for the quota of the drinking water every drop will be used for our farms. We know, the government inflicts violence on the people who demand water but we also know that the police weapons of a democratically elected government too cannot have unrestrained power.

2 Comments

  1. Even if some of the valuable points raised in this letter are answered by the rulers. That may be some positive achievement ….but it is highly unlikely that they respond ….

  2. I wrote a complaint to Delhi govt. about not getting any irrigation water for 2 villages; Vejlaka and Jakhda are TWO
    villages of Dholka Taluka, Dist : Ahmedabad have not received any water for dry thirsty fields after 10+ years of Narmada Yojna; even not sure when canals to farmers’ land will come ? Above ground ? Under ground pipes ? Nobody knows…. when so many surrounding villages are getting WATER for IRRIGATION ????? Not for these
    UNLUCKY 2 VILLAGES. Whom to blame ? Water Department, Irrigation Department, Local Elected Officials,
    or Chief Secretary of Gujarat State/ District collector ? Can somebody publish info. for public / voters’ use?
    BJP or Congress candidates can help here. I am NRI / NRG from Vejlaka village and I have lands here and puzzled
    why canals are not constructed and water for tilling not available for these 2 villages?
    SABKA SATH, SABKA VIKAS is merely a slogan that can mean SABKA SATH, Vested interestKA VIKAS or
    corruption KA vikas? Farmers’ income can be double by 2020 is aim of BJP manifesto ??? Somebody is going to
    torpedo it…looks like. Water Control Authority must be impartial to all people / all villages and swamps must be drained out and inept staff must be removed. BJP losing support little by little from farmers; only NaMo ji is doing
    heavy lifting and rest are enjoying ….Farmers have family too….Tolerance has limits….