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Political Interference, No Tenders: Study Hints at Scam in Gujarat CM’s Rs 345-crore Jal Sanchay Yojana

The IWMI study also found that the BJP govt did not provide technical support to carry out the desilting operations.

The International Water Management Institute (IWMI), an international not-for-profit research organisation reported widespread inconsistencies in the Gujarat government-instituted Rs 345-crore Sujalam Suflam Jal Sanchay Abhiyan Yojana, a water-conservation project. In its findings, the IWMI reported lack of tenders, differences in payment of workers’ wages under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and political interference in the manner of implementation of the scheme.

The project, launched on May 1 at Ankleshwar by Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, was aimed at solving water-shortage problems in the state, both in terms of irrigation and drinking water requirements. The Gujarat government’s press release underlining the agenda of the project stated, “During the month-long campaign, 1,300 small and large water reservoirs will be desilted and 34 rivers will be cleaned. Irrigation canals with the total length of 5,000 km will be spruced up and air valves in the 5,000-km-long pipeline network of the Gujarat Water Supply and Sewerage Board will be repaired.”  

According to the Rupani-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, the project had met its objectives by around 110 per cent following its completion in June.

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According to an Indian Express report, in its study, IWMI studied 13 of the 33 districts that were to be part of the project. The study included criteria such as areas with maximum excavation of silt, areas where the project had been implemented in the best possible way, areas where contribution from villages was high and also areas where underground levels were over-excavated.

In its study, however, IWMI found out that not only were no tenders floated to conduct the desilting operations, the areas to be potentially desilted were also politically influenced. Most importantly, there was no technical support provided by the government to carry out the desilting operations.

Speaking to Express, Harikrishnan Santosh, one of IWMI’s pre-doctoral research fellows who was part of its study, said, “The silt that was extracted from the sites was sold to contractors involved in construction business by sarpanchs or the gram panchayat. The silt removed should have been taken by farmers to their fields and used as fertiliser, or the gram panchayat could have used it for leveling the school premises or common areas of the village.”

The IWMI study was carried out in around 40 villages, with around three villages being selected across the 13 districts the study was carried out in.

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