Despite the shortcomings of the Neeru Meeru (water and you) programme reflected during its first and second phase, the Andhra Pradesh chief minister, Chandrababu Naidu, has decided to launch the third phase of the programme from May 2001, with a new name -- Jalayagnam (prayer for water). Naidu recently announced that the programme would be taken up as a mass movement, bringing all the water conservation related works under one roof.
But his claims of community participation seem to be shallow -- he has postponed the panchayat (village council) elections in the state. Many people from the state question his claims. D Narasimha Reddy, executive director of Hyderabad-based Centre for Resource Education, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), says: "Wherever Neeru Meeru is being implemented, local committees parallel to the panchayats have been set up. These committees handle the funds." B N Chetty, secretary of Kurnool-based Jan Vikas Sangh, a NGO, observes that conflicts between the forest and rural development department are hampering the effective implementation of the programme. "In the village where I am working in Medak district, most of the work is all hype," rues V Rukmini Rao of the Deccan Development Society, a NGO. The programme was launched in May 2000 with an aim to encourage rural communities to build new rainwater harvesting structures and revive old ones. All the development activities were to be taken up with the help of the local people, but this did not happen (see Down To Earth , Vol 9, No 11, October 31, 2000). The major thrust of the programme in the initial stages was to desilt old tanks. But instead of employing rural poor in desilting operations, the government relied on corrupt contractors. The programme also failed because the government officials lack technical knowledge.
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