On Wednesday (April 26), people from 13 districts of Rajasthan staged a demonstration at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar demanding solution to the water crisis in their areas and status of the proposed Eastern Rajasthan Canal Project (ERCP), which promises transfer of excess water from the Chambal river basin to regions facing water scarcity.
Around 50 people reached the protest site from Rajasthan on foot. The march started from Rajasthan’s Padla Todabhim on April 16.
Alleging that the state and central governments talked about this project only for their political benefit, the protesters also submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister regarding their demands.
Mahaveer Gurjar, who hails from Jaipur’s rural area and was part of this march, told Patriot, “We are facing a major crisis due to lack of water. After 2010, the water level in our area reduced by a lot. Now the situation is so bad that even someone owning 15 bighas of land has to go to the city to work as labourer. Migration has increased due to water crisis. Our social camaraderie is also suffering. The cost of a water-tanker is 500 rupees. We are facing a serious crisis. We have been demanding solution to this problem again and again but there has been no action on it.”
He said further, “Before coming here, we held 15-20 mahapanchayats in Rajasthan on the issue and also mobilised people through social media. Now, we are doing this protest peacefully, this is symbolic. We will wait until July and if our demands aren’t fulfilled, then we will come to Delhi in July again with around 1,500 tractors and protest just as the farmers had protested.”
The protesters chanted, “ERCP laagu karo (implement ERCP), ladenge-jeetenge (we’ll fight and win)” among other slogans.
Rajeshwari Meena, who came from Rajasthan’s Dausa district, said, “Today is our 11th day of foot march. We started this march from Todabhim and reached here to inform the top leadership of the country of our problems. We need water. It is our fundamental need. As a local citizen, I can tell you that in my village there is only one well, where people come to take water from as far as 2-4 kilometres. That well is the only source of water for the villagers. Agriculture in my area is dependent on rain. If we don’t get rain, crops get destroyed. So, we have come here with our demand and will give a memorandum to the Prime Minister.”
A resident of Khurra village, Meena said, “For the last one and half years we, with some youth organisations, have been trying to raise voice for this ERCP project. We demand, pray and also warn the government that they complete this project. All we want is water. If they won’t fulfil our demands, we will do something big in future. You will see all the citizens of east Rajasthan on the road.”
Lokesh Kumar Meena, who was managing the demonstration, told Patriot, “As many as three crore people from 13 districts of east Rajasthan are suffering due to water crisis. We don’t even have proper drinking water and women, cattle, and agriculture are all suffering. We have already done a foot march in Jaipur and given a memorandum to the Chief Minister [Ashok Gehlot]. Even the PM himself accepted, in his two rallies held in Rajasthan, that water is a big problem. But he hasn’t solved the problem yet. Both the governments have turned it into a ‘political stunt’ and people are paying the price.”
The ERCP is expected to irrigate about 3.4 million hectares of agricultural land in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The project’s estimated budget is around Rs 40,000 crore.