Shiv Sena MLA Vijay Shivtare called off his hunger strike last evening after District Collector Vikas Deshmukh assured him of assistance from state government in Purandar taluka, which is facing acute water shortage. Shivtare was fasting for the last seven days.
Deshmukh said the assurance letter given to Shivtare was issued in his capacity as the District Collector.
After calling off the hunger strike, Shivtare claimed the government had exhibited apathetic behaviour in meeting the demands made by residents of Purandar taluka .
“In the last seven days, nobody from the state government turned up to address the issue,” Shivtare said.
Shivtare said he would soon be meeting Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan to discuss the water crisis issue being faced by the residents.
He warned that if the government failed to find a solution to the problem during the meeting, then the residents would relaunch their agitation, during which they will first march to the city and then to Mumbai with their livestock.
Purandar taluka, which is just 40 km from the city, is considered to be a major exporter of figs and custard apples to the UK and Dubai.
Residents have been demanding 2.02 TMC water from Gunjavani Dam since 1992, which was sanctioned by the state at the time of construction of the dam.
But post-construction, the state continued to sit on the proposal of constructing a left canal to release water to Saswad city and other areas in the taluka.
“The condition of the farmers has gone from bad to worse in the last two years. This year I have already spent Rs 50,000 on water tankers and my estimated loss can be pegged at Rs 2.5 lakh on figs alone,” Ashok Poman said.
Poman owns an orchard in Pimple that is three km away from Saswad city. He said the water crisis has taken a toll on the crop and exports from the entire taluka have almost come to a standstill.
From bad to worse Nitin Kale, owner of a pomegranate orchard in Pimple, echoed Poman’s sentiments. “There is no water to drink. How we are going to supply water to our orchards?” Kale said.
Agriculture Supervisor of Purandar taluka Dilip Jadhav said there were around 65,000 farmers in Purandar taluka. He said so far the taluka received just 205 mm of rainfall against the expected 469 mm.
“Agricultural loss has been estimated at 75 per cent. Only 40 per cent sowing activity has been done so far. Poor rainfall will affect the rabi crop as well,” Jadhav said.
Saswad residents said they were receiving water once every two days and that too for barely 30 minutes.
Shivtare demanded that taluka’s water needs be met by releasing water from the Veer Dam, just like the way it is being done for Baramati, Indapur, Akluj and Phaltan. “We demanded that if the state doesn’t have funds to construct a left canal from Gunjavani Dam, then like the other four talukas, even Purandar should be allowed to use water from Veer Dam located at Pune-Satara border,” said one of Shivtare’s supporters.