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Gujarat votes: The Narmada factor
Saubhadra Chatterji | December 10, 2007 16:17 IST
Deep blue iron pipe-heads, nestling on sky blue concrete bases, can be sighted easily near Bhuj. These are pipelines to carry the Narmada water to the rest of Gujarat.
Although Bhuj and eastern areas of Kutch have tasted the water of the controversial Sardar Sarovar Project, a vast population in western and northern Kutch is still deprived.
Khavda in northern Kutch has more than seven shops of cell phones and accessories. But it gets a small amount of water and that too on alternate days.
The trademark pipe-heads of the Narmada project, installed months ago, are more of political sign posts. This is the biggest Congress' allegation against Chief Minister Narendra Modi [Images]. For the villagers, it's a major woe.
"The area has traders who get water from distant areas. We have to book these every fortnight. Every tanker trip for drinking water costs us Rs 1,500," said Rasheed Ahmed Sana in Khavda.
Women of this village travel three-four kms to get water for household work. A few kilometres away, in Drobana, Mano Buddha cites the same problems. "We can't afford tankers so frequently. Our women travel even up to nine kms for water as the wells in our area have dried up."
The Modi government has provided electricity to all these far-off villages but has not been able to keep his promise to bring Narmada to the distant Kutch. The multi-purpose Narmada project is to irrigate more than 18,000 square km, mainly in the drought-prone areas of Kutch and Saurashtra.
Kantibhai Patel is a big farmer in Rawapar in western Kutch. The area, two hour's drive from Bhuj, has no Narmada water. Patel has spent lakhs to lay his own pipeline to get water from a bore well that is almost 10 km from his home.
"The water I get now is coloured and not so sweet. This is not serving my purpose. I am waiting for the Narmada water," says Patel.
Local BJP leaders focus on the areas where Narmada has reached while the Congress points in the opposite direction. As development is a key issue in the Kutch region, Modi scores well on roads and electricity and the Congress is banking heavily on the broken "Narmada promise."