Old poll stunt?

New water harvesting scheme

By Sutapa Ghosh
Published: Wednesday 15 October 2003

-- (Credit: Surya Sen / CSE)from the time when Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee mentioned the Pradhan Mantri Grameen Jal Samvardhan Yojna (pmgjsy) in his Independence-day speech last year, the Union government appeared to have been waiting for an opportune moment to launch the scheme. With polls round the corner, the propitious instant seems near at hand. On September 16, Union rural development minister Kashiram Rana announced that the pmgjsy -- a water harvesting programme which aims to make villages drought-proof and flood-proof -- would be unveiled shortly.

On the funds front, the government has displayed a palpable sense of urgency by earmarking Rs 1,000 crore for the centrally-sponsored project in the 10th five-year plan. It is another matter that hardly any spadework has been done to ensure the scheme's smooth implementation. Though the pm had declared that one lakh traditional sources of water would be revived under the programme, the Union rural development ministry has maintained a studied silence on this aspect.

Anupam Mishra of non-governmental organisation Gandhi Peace Foundation is apprehensive: "Too much emphasis is being placed on the financial allocation. Worse still, there been no allusion to the revival of traditional water wisdom."

Only the broad contours have been disclosed. The scheme will cover 17 states. The funding will be on a 75:25 basis between the centre and states. "Rs 10 lakh to Rs 15 lakh will be disbursed to panchayats through the District Rural Development Authority," reveals Rana.

Ironically, rather than concentrating on the nuts and bolts of the programme, the centre seems more concerned about preventing state governments from deriving mileage out of it. Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether pmgjsy is any different from ongoing watershed programmes like Hariyali and if it is designed to adapt to specific local needs. In all likelihood, it is just a ritual gesture in the run-up to the polls.

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