Kaushik to Karnataka govt: Provide water first, jobs later

We can't expect poor labourers to work under scorching sun for eight hours just for Rs 200.

Bengaluru: The state government's decision to accord top priority to providing jobs to the rural workforce under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) has not worked in north Karnataka where the temperature has crossed 42 degrees Celsius.

“The government must first focus on providing drinking water to all villages because of the acute shortage of water. It's very difficult to work in open fields under the scorching sun because of the heat wave,” said former chief secretary Kaushik Mukherjee.

He told DC that it is fine to offer employment to rural people provided they get wages once in a week. Unfortunately, the wages are distributed once in a month. The rural employment scheme will be successful only if there is speedy payment.

Strict monitoring is also required as the district administrations as contractors use machinery in place of manual labourers and raise bills in fictitious names for the work done. This has defeated the purpose of the rural employment generating scheme, he lamented.

A Congress MLA from Belagavi said the government was not strictly going by the rule book to extract work from agricultural labourers in view of the heat wave. Instructions have been given to the district administration to release the wages without much delay.

“We can't expect poor labourers to work under the scorching sun for eight hours just for ' 200. They are malnourished and May die of sunstroke if rules are implemented strictly in districts like Kalaburagi, Ballari and Koppal where mercury is hovering between 42 and 45 degrees Celsius,” he said. A revenue officer from Kalaburgi claimed that laborers in his district works from 8 am to 1 pm despite severe heat.

MB Patil: water in our reservoirs will only last till May
Drought across Karnataka has started crippling potable water supply in several districts, including Bengaluru. With one more month for summer to end, the fast receding water level in reservoirs has left the government worried.

Bracing itself for the worst ever water crisis, the government is mulling pumping water from the dead storage level of dams and supplying it to people.

Speaking to reporters, Water Resource Minister Mr M.B. Patil said, “The water in all reservoirs in the state as on date, is sufficient till May. If it does not rain in May, then we will be in deep trouble. We have made elaborate plans to pump the remaining water from dead storage levels for drinking purposes. We hope that such a situation does not arise and we will get rains soon.”

On whether the government will go for staggered supply of water to cities, Mr Patil said, “Water supply does not come directly under the irrigation department, we are only bulk suppliers. If agencies such as RDPR and Urban development department decide to go in for staggered water supply and communicate this to us, we will consider the idea.”

On the proposed balancing reservoir across river Cauvery at Mekedatu, intended for supply of drinking water to Bengaluru, he said the government will submit its final report to the Central Water Commission (CWC) and the Union environment ministry in May. “We will be storing more than 60 TMC of water at Mekedatu with about 2,000 acres likely to be submerged. We may need Rs 5,000 crore for the project which will be borne by Bengaluru civic agencies,” Mr Patil said.

The government has also finalised plans to build a balancing reservoir on river Tungabhadra at Navile in Ballari district to provide 30-32 TMC of water by submerging about 16,000 acres of land.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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