SANOSARA: Holding his first public rally in poll-bound Gujarat after taking office in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today reached out to farmers from the heartland of the restive Patel community after launching an irrigation project.
Modi also launched a veiled attack on the Congress after inaugurating the first phase of the ambitious Saurashtra Narmada Avtaran Irrigation (Sauni) project here, saying that polls can be won by dangling baits and "throwing pieces" but a country can't be run by doing so.
Targeting the Congress which had questioned the timing of his visit to poll-bound Gujarat, Modi said his government does not believe in "throwing pieces" to attract voters. "You can win polls by throwing pieces, but you cannot run a country by doing so. We do not believe in throwing pieces. We worked hard for almost 15 years for this project to bring transformation and development," Modi told a huge gathering at Sanosara village in Jamnagar district in the patidar(or patel)-dominated Saurashtra region.
Water is a politically sensitive issue in Gujarat, which the BJP plans to cash in before the 2017 Assembly polls to revive its fortunes, specially at the time when it is facing challenges like Patel quota agitation and Dalit uprising.
The Congress has termed the inauguration of Sauni scheme at this juncture by the Prime Minister as an attempt to give a message to voters ahead of the polls.
In his address, Modi stressed on conserving water and remembered his days as Gujarat Chief Minister when people did not understood his vision to bring transformation in agriculture sector. "After I became Gujarat's CM for the first time (in 2001), I used to tell farmers that instead of fighting against government to get more electricity for irrigation, they should focus more on water management. However, I failed to make them understand for almost 2-3 years" said Modi.
"At that time, I faced lot of protests by farmers. They used to burn my effigies. But, I remained firm on my vision. Today, I want to thank farmers of Gujarat for accepting my vision of conserving water through sprinklers, drip irrigation and micro irrigation tools, which significantly brought up ground water levels," said Modi.
He added that water of Narmada river has now reached till the extreme end of parched Kutch region and helped farmers to a great extent.
"Narmada waters have reached till Khavda in Kutch. There was a time when camels were used to transport water to our BSF jawans posted there. They used to get small quantity of water for drinking. But now, they use Narmada water for even bathing," said Modi.
"We worked on the motto of Jai Jawan and Jai Kisan. Water from Narmada has transformed the lives of farmers too. This season, farmers of Kutch exported 70,000 tonnes of Kesar mangoes" added Modi.
Remembering the day when Modi first coined the idea of Sauni scheme, the PM said that people had apprehensions about the success of this project initially.
"On September 25, 2012, I made a presentation about SAUNI project in Rajkot during a program organised to celebrate the birth anniversary of Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay. All the representatives of Saurashtra region present in the hall were surprised to know about this scheme and felt that it can ever be accomplished," said Modi.
"The work started in February 2014, after which, I left Gujarat (to become PM). Then, (former CM) Anandiben Patel took over the task of completing the project and finally (current CM) Vijay Rupani and (Deputy CM) Nitin Patel's team sped up the task. And today, the project has become a reality," said Modi. He added that a total of 115 dams will be filled up underb this project.
Modi stated that agriculture production in Saurashtra region was growing at a rapid pace due to the Narmada canal network. "In Saurashtra alone, cotton production has grown by 370 per cent, groundnut production registered a growth of 600 per cent and wheat production by 300 per cent. I wonder what will happen when farmers will get some more water under this project. This water is no less than gold for them," said Modi.
Under the SAUNI scheme, the Gujarat government plans to fill 115 dams of Saurashtra region with excess overflowing water of Sardar Sarovar dam across river Narmada, by web of pipeline networks.
The Rs 12,000 crore scheme aims to take excess water of Sardar Sarovar Dam on river Narmada all the way to 115 dams of parched Saurashtra region. During monsoon, on an average, around three MAFt (million acre feet) water overflows from the dam is wasted, as it goes to sea.
The project is divided in four phases. In the first phase, which was inaugurated by Modi today, ten dams including Aji-3, will get excess water of Narmada. Modi termed the entire project as an "engineering milestone", for which, the entire nation can take pride.
"Saurashtra's landscape is like an inverted saucer, which forces us to lift water. In such adverse scenario, it is not a small achievement to complete such large network. People of India should understand and appreciate this engineering wonder," said Modi.
Modi also listed the Central government's pro-farmers schemes like Pradhan Mantri Fasal Vima Yojana, turnaround of urea production and Pradhan Mantri Sichai Yojana for the benefits of the farmers.