#India – Farms robbed of water, farmers livelihood

Thursday, May 30, 2013, 7:49 IST | Agency: DNA
Yogesh Pawar
High-powered committee on water reallocates 1983.43 million cubic metres of water from 51 irrigation projects to coal-fired power plants, finds a study conducted by non-profit organisation Prayas.
A high-powered committee on water seems more interested in diverting water from irrigation to highly water-intensive coal fired power plants. This, despite the stress that this reallocation places on drought-prone regions in the state.
This revelation has been made by an analytical report put out by non-profit organisation, Prayas, on the basis of the minutes of meetings that high-powered committees have held over a decade. Such committees consists of ministers and bureaucrats.
Drying up fields
Terming the committee’s decisions as ‘opaque and undemocratic’, the report states that it had reallocated 1983.43million cubic metres of water from 51 irrigation projects for non-irrigation purposes, thus reducing irrigation potential by 3.23lakh hectares.
Analysis of minutes of meetings shows that of the total water reallocated by the panel, 54% was allotted for domestic purpose while 46% was for industrial purpose. Besides demand for drinking water, industrial water demands are equally responsible for reduction of water for irrigation. This debunks the general belief that industry requires less water and water allocated to it shouldn’t cause much of an adverse impact.
Of the total water allocated for domestic use, 96.94% was routed to municipal corporations in cities like Mumbai, Pune, Nashik and Nagpur. Of the rest, 1.75% went to municipal councils with 0.88% to rural pockets and 0.42% diverted to other schemes like water supply to educational institutions. It is apparent that private companies, including power plants and special economic zones, used the committee’s regime most effectively in availing water reservations.
Of the total water reserved by the committee for industries, a maximum share of 64% is allocated to thermal power plants. Of the 15 power plants which demanded and got water reservation from the panel, 13 are privately owned.
Besides power plants, the panel allowed water to be reserved for Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (19%) and special economic zones (14%).
Dodging the law
The report states that the committee did not consider farmers’ interests and even sidetracked the state watchdog – Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority.
“…this would require adherence to law and the decisions would have to be open, transparent, systematic, and rational with consideration of implications of these decisions on local beneficiaries”, the report mentions.
The report states that involvement of the regulator would make public hearings mandatory, spurring exchanging of ideas on looking at alternative sources of water for industries.
The report notes that thermal power plants, which require cooling, were provided with water-based coolers instead of air-based coolers which would have help scrimp on water.
Here’s how the report explanains this anomaly. “It would not have allowed the functionaries in the committee to make arbitrary decision favouring certain interested parties…
Activists filed two petitions in the high court and the regulatory body, challenging the committee’s decisions to divert water from a couple of irrigation projects for non-irrigation purposes. However, the state government did not await the verdict.
“The illegal decisions were legalised… using a weapon of ordinance… As a result, farmers lost their right to challenge the illegal decisions forever…” says the report. “The water reallocation from irrigation projects to non-irrigation is grabbing of water resources for industries and big cities at the cost of livelihoods of farmers.”
Advantage politics
The report points out how the allocation policy has been captured by dominant political forces emerging from rapid urbanisation and industrialisation. “These forces are capturing the policy space and thereby the vital natural resources like water at the cost of life and livelihoods of the rural farming community. There is an urgent need to close the gaps in the policy framework and evolve strong regulatory mechanisms to create a counter-political force capable of protecting the interests of the disadvantaged sections of the society,” it recommends.


Scarred by violence, but winners in life #Chhattisgarh

Scarred by violence, but winners in life: Youth from Maoists-infested areas beat odds to ace AIEEE

Tags: All India Engineering Entrance Examination | AIEEE | Tribal students | Maoist areas | Chhattisgarh
tribal students
Some students are victims of the Maoist conflict, having lost at least one parent to the violence.

Raipur, June 12, 2012

Two years ago, Sonu Khais from a Naxal-infested village of Bastar in Chhattisgarh could not imagine appearing for an all-India examination. Engineering wasn’t even an option on his mind.

“My father was a sweeper in a school that was damaged by Naxals. My aim was to become a compounder in any clinic,” said Sonu, who is one of the 149 tribal students, mostly from Bastar, who have cleared the All India Engineering Entrance Examination (AIEEE) 2012 in their first attempt.

Like Sonu, there is Ramsu Potai, a tribal student from Narayanpur, who until two years ago didn’t even know what the pre-engineering test (PET) meant. Similarly, Chendre Pulhe from Maoist-hit Dantewada district, to whom the idea of facing any all-India competitive test had never occurred, qualified the engineering test.

Many of these successful students were victims of the Maoist conflict, having lost either one or both their parents during the violence. But life in an environment of terror and the lack of good educational and career opportunities proved to be no handicap.

Two years ago, these students were brought to the state capital by officials of ‘Prayas‘ — a residential school managed by the state’s SC/ST welfare department of the state government since July, 2010.

The students quickly started doing well. They secured more than 90 per cent marks in their 10th board with distinction in physics, mathematics, chemistry and other science subjects.

“We didn’t score well in language papers that affected our overall percentage. Since our world was small and limited to our village, we could not think of appearing in AIEEE,” said Prakash Baghel from Sukma, about 450 km south of Raipur.

“This is the result of the efforts and zeal of the tribal students, who proved their mettle and emerged successful. The results indicate that tribal students only need proper guidance, encouragement and a better environment,” said R P Mandal, principal secretary, SC/ST welfare department.

“It was incredible that all the tribal students succeeded in their first attempt facing such a difficult exam. There is an obvious relationship between personal factors, behavioural patterns and environment condition that play an important role in performance accomplishments,” said Anirudh Sinha, a counsellor and an educationist.

Shankar Markam from Bastar, Ravi Kashyap from Manpur in Rajnandgaon, and Paldev Mukka from Bijapur felt inspired and motivated by the action taken by the state, which spent Rs.1,000 for each student every month on food and Rs.30,000 for providing various other amenities during their stay and coaching in the residential school.

“The sole aim of Prayas is to get tribal students from the Maoist-affected regions and motivate them for the All India level competitive exams,” Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh said, giving all the credit to the students who succeeded.

Encouraged by these results, the department has planned a similar programme for girls from the left-wing extremist areas of Chhattisgarh.



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