Water-stressed in India: Madhya Pradesh’s Rajgarh paints a dismal picture

No funds released under Jal Shakti Abhiyan, MGNREGS works incomplete: District officials

By Jitendra
Last Updated: Monday 16 March 2020
Rajgarh is one of the most water-stressed districts in India. Source: Flickr

Over 400 kilometres from Uttar Pradesh’s Mahoba district — where construction of bunds under Jal Shakti Abhiyan helped revive groundwater — is another that paints an opposite picture.

Madhya Pradesh’s Rajgarh district ranked 205 among the 255 water-stressed districts in terms of successful water intervention schemes under Jal Shakti Abhiyan (JSA) and community participation.

Rajgarh district collector Mrinal Meena attributed the dismal score to the lack of funds under JSA.

“We didn’t receive any funds and hence could not carry out any activities. We are, however, planning some activities under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 (MGNREGS),” she said.

Rajgarh receives an average annual rainfall of 1,100 millimetres.

District government officials claimed water recharging pits were constructed and plantation work carried out only in Narsinghgarh and Sarangpur blocks, the most severely affected blocks of the district.

According to MGNREGS website data, Muwaliakhedar panchayat of Narsinghgarh block listed five works — none of which were completed till March 2020.

While one work was listed under ‘ongoing’ category, two were in ‘approved’ category. The remaining two projects were boxed under ‘new’.

According to the data, the central government released Rs 15,00 for the construction of a sand filter this year — it was supposed to allocate Rs 5.34 lakh for the same.

However, according to KC Dubey, who looks after MGNREGS at district level, more than 15 groundwater recharge pits as well as dozens of wells were constructed in the panchayat.

But Down to Earth, during its visit to the panchayat, found contrasting results.

Muwaliakhedar village head Meharban Gujjar claimed that only one well was constructed in 2020 in his panchayat under the MGNREGS scheme. When DTE asked him the way to the well, the response was discouraging.

“The village head and government officials said they would give us Rs 2.4 lakh for the well. But they did not do so,” claimed Jay Prakash, a small farmer.

DTE visited several villages in Narsinghgarh and found that farmers had been waiting for years to get the money. Few farmers complained about the same, but to no avail.

JSA district nodal officer B K Ahirwal claimed the idea of JSA was flawed.

“How can the government create a separate ministry without allocating funds to it? We have the funds to carry out only repair work of hand-pumps,” he said.

Ahirwal did not conduct any meetings or awareness campaigns on the subject.

“Lack of official participation failed this initiative here. It did well in places where the district collector was invested,” said a senior official.

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