ENSURING EFFICIENT USE OF WATER
Today, a year after the Devendra Fadnavis government completed one year in office in Maharashtra, everyone seems to be talking about his flagship scheme Jalayukta Shivar Yojana, which has been appreciated across political lines. But very few know that the seeds of this flagship programme, which was hugely boosted by Devendra Fadnavis and Pankaja Munde, lie in a micro-irrigation and watershed management programme implemented successfully in Pune region three years ago.
“When we had conceptualised the programme in the year 2011, there was no specific name given to it. The idea was to converge different water management schemes, and bring them under one roof. When we implemented it in Pune region for two years — 2011-12, 2012-13 — a taluka was considered a unit. We had ensured people’s participation in it,” said Prabhakar Deshmukh, secretary, Water Conservation and Employment Guarantee Scheme.
The same idea has been used for Jalayukta Shivar Yojana, which is an umbrella scheme converging 14 different water management schemes. The idea is to create a tailor-made programme which suits each village according to its water budgeting. For the state, the shift from big dams to smaller and decentralised water structures was a radical one, but a strong political will is what pushed the entire machinery ahead.
Today, Jalayukta Shivar Yojana has been validated by none other than India’s water man Rajendra Singh, who has won this year’s Stockholm Water Prize. “If done with public participation, by keeping the contractors away, this programme has a great potential to replenish water in Maharashtra,” he told The Sunday Guardian. He has himself visited 10 districts where the work is going on.
The goal of the programme for the first year was water budgeting. For the second year now, the government wants to focus on ensuring efficient use of water.
The government claims that while they have not been able to keep the contractors at bay, they have kept their participation minimum. “Plus checks have been put on them by ensuring that payment for their projects is not made unless the work is declared as satisfactory by the respective gram sabha,” claimed Prabhakar Deshmukh.
“Also, the tendering system has been transparent in the state due to e-tendering for any project above the cost of Rs 3 lakh,” pointed out an official at the Chief Minister’s Office.
The one thing the government has done consistently is getting people involved in the planning and implementation of the project. It might be one of the very few projects where people contributed over Rs 300 crore to get water management work done at their villages. From government employees and ministers contributing a part of their salaries to big corporates and social organisations adopting villages, the participation in the programme has been immense.
The Maharashtra government has so far spent Rs 1,400 crore on the project. It has been able to successfully generate 24.59 TMC water storage in 6,200 drought-affected villages. In fact, the prime criterion for selecting the village for the project was the severity of drought for a long period of time.
Recently, when the opposition targeted the current government on the completion of its one year, the only grievance it had against the scheme was that it was not new. “It was during our tenure that these schemes were launched. It is just that the state has brought it under one umbrella. There is nothing new in it,” said Dhananjay Munde, leader of opposition, Maharashtra Legislative Council. But many opposition leaders have unanimously agreed that the work is proceeding at phenomenal speed. “No doubt, the scheme is working well,” said a staff member of Munde’s office, on condition of anonymity. NCP leader Sharad Pawar too has appreciated the programme.
“Yes, we agree there is nothing new about the schemes under Jalayukta Shivar Yojana. We have just brought the schemes together intelligently, and have worked hard to implement it on ground,” said a senior administrative officer.
“In 2011, the district administration conceptualised a decentralised water management programme for Pune region. It aimed at creation of decentralised water bodies in rainfed areas, which is the key to making agriculture sustainable,” Deshmukh said.
In two years, Rs 600 crore were spent on the entire programme. This included building series of check dams, involving people in the work. The programme earned quick results. The groundwater level increased by 1.5 to 2 meters in the four districts of Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur and Pune.
During the implementation of that programme, the tahsildar was made the nodal officer and the taluka was identified as a unit. After the success of this programme, the Jalayukata Shivar Yojana was chalked out.
With the state staring at a drought situation, the main concern was to solve the question of potable water and provide protective irrigation for at least one to two crops. “I designed the programme in November. A GR was thereafter issued on 5 December 2014. In December and January, we created a village level action plan by undertaking water budgeting for each village,” Deshmukh said.
The 6,200 villages chosen in the first phase are the ones which are the worst-affected by drought. “The two major challenges were insufficient rainfall and untimely rainfall. We had to make action plans to ensure that there is sufficient water for drinking, for cattle and for protective irrigation for two crops during major dry spells,” he said.
METICULOUS PLANNING, CONTINUOUS MEETINGS
In January this year, Maharashtra decided to allocate Rs 1,000 crore for the project. 14 water management schemes under different departments were identified to be brought under the programme.
The departmental machinery spent three months to arrive at the estimation of works that needed to be done. Simultaneously, the government formed a committee at each district level to look after the planning and implementation of the programme. In the mean time, the state administration held various meetings at district level to spread awareness about the plan. During the implementation of the programme, most of the budget has been spent on widening and deepening of nullahs. Over 1,500 kilometres of nullahs have been widened and deepened. Of these, the work on 748 kilometres has been done through people’s contribution.
SECRET OF SUCCESS
Decentralisation of power is the secret of the administrative success the scheme has achieved so far. The Collector has been made the captain of the project at district level. She heads the committee appointed for this purpose, and oversees the work. “We have given complete power to the Collector. He is made responsible to implement the programme. The instructions are very clear — your performance will be evaluated on the basis of implementation of this scheme,” Deshmukh said. And in many districts, the Collectors seem to have delivered. “In Solapur, the Collector has identified 6,000 old structures that can be restored. Such identifications help bring down the cost of the project further, while not compromising on the goal that needs to be achieved,” said Priya Khan, officer on special duty, Chief Minister’s Office.
None of the programmes were submitted to the state for sanction. “We didn’t sign a single paper. We only held division-wise meetings with all the district-level officers regularly, to sensitise them about the programme,” Deshmukh said.
Maintenance of transparency is another important factor. The water budgeting is done in consultation with the villagers. They are actively involved in identifying aquifers and working to replenish them. The plans are approved by the gram sabha. Moreover, if a task is handed over to a contractor, his work is evaluated and cleared by the gram sabha. Only after that, payment is made to the contractor.
Through the help of satellite imagery, the government is also working to upload photographs of all the completed works on a state-run website. “Through MR-SAT, we have so far uploaded 96,000 digital photos online,” Deshmukh said.
Also, third party evaluation of contracts is done from time to time to keep a check on the contractors, government officials claimed.
“The objective of the programme is to make Maharashtra drought-free by 2019. It will target 25,000 villages in five years. Till now, 1,20,485 works have been completed in the 6,200 villages which have been chosen in the first phase. In close to 3,000 villages, over 4,000 works worth Rs 300 crore were done through people’s participation. At some places, people lent their machinery, at others, they lent their manpower,” said Priya Khan.
Complaints have started flowing in about the work given to the contractors. “But they are very, very few. On the background that 1,20,000 works have been completed, 10-15 complaints have been made,” Deshmukh said.
The mood on field is positive. Chandrashekhar Chincholkar from Nagpur says he hasn’t seen so much of water in the five villages in Katol, Narkhed belt for years. “The water level had gone below 500 feet in these five villages. Today, it is replenished to 15-20 feet. The villagers can take two crops for sure, if not three. There is enough water for drinking, for cattle,” he said, showing photographs of water-filled bunds. He worked with NGO Centre for Rural Welfare from Nagpur, to implement the programme in the five villages.