BHUBANESWAR: Availability of funds, if one believes the Odisha Government, was never an issue. Yet, large parts of the State is in the grip of a severe water crisis forcing people in some places to drink water unfit for human consumption or going without it.
Water crisis is not a new phenomenon to this State. It is rather an annual feature. On the back foot, the State Government now claims that hundreds of crores of rupees were available with the panchayats to create infrastructure to mitigate water scarcity, including upgradation of systems and repair of the defunct sources.
The blame game has begun and the sarpanches are portrayed as the villains. “Until and unless the sarpanches release funds available with them, how can we attend to these problems,” said a senior officer. According to the state government, more than `300 crore unspent balance from different Central Finance Commissions is available with district administrations for developmental works but hardly was used to create infrastructure for drinking water.
Take for instance the case in Sundargarh district, a tribal dominated and one of the worst affected districts in Western Odisha. About `48 crore is available with the Panchayati Raj Institutions in the district for supply of drinking water. But the amount is lying unspent because of callousness of sarpanches and lack of monitoring by the district administration.
A similar situation has been reported from Dhenkanal district. Complaints about defunct tube wells, drying up of spot sources and water bodies are pouring in. The gram panchayats of the district have `11 crore available to them for this purpose but the amount remains unutilised.
Reviewing the crisis following the massive hue and cry over the prolonged heat wave condition and very severe water crisis, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik today announced a slew of measures to be taken up on a war footing to provide relief. But it is too little, too late. Had his administration taken stock of the ground realities well before the summer set in and prepared itself for the impending crisis, things could have been different.