LokSabha 2019: No water, no vote: 15 villages to boycott polls

Prajakta Joshi
Wednesday, 3 April 2019

“Water has forever been an issue of crisis in our villages since construction of Dimbhe dam began around 30 years ago. While the tribals were displaced, they did not receive any share of this water. They carry out the paddy farming at the mercy of rainfall,” said Nilesh Sable, tribal activist and a resident of village Rajewadi.

Pune: Irked by the perennial water crisis and apathy of government officials, residents of 15 tribal villages in Ambegaon taluka, Pune district, have decided to boycott the Lok Sabha (LS) elections this year.

Ambegaon taluka falls in the Shirur LS constituency where Adhalrao Patil of Shiv Sena is the present Member of Parliament (MP). The 15 villages, near the Bhimashankar forest region, have a total population of over 14,000 people. While the villagers and activists have been fighting for over two years to get their share of water from the Dimbhe dam on river Ghod for over two years, the locals are awaiting concrete action but have got just promises.

“Water has forever been an issue of crisis in our villages since construction of Dimbhe dam began around 30 years ago. While the tribals were displaced, they did not receive any share of this water. They carry out the paddy farming at the mercy of rainfall,” said Nilesh Sable, tribal activist and a resident of village Rajewadi.

After a follow-up of two years, activists from the villages finally succeeded in getting a proposal from the Minister of State for Water Resources and Conservation Vijay Shivtare to release six per cent of the water from Dimbhe dam for farming in the tribal belt. However, the file got stuck in red tape.
“We visited MLA Dilip Walse-Patil as well as the present MP several times, but to no avail,” tribal activist Sabale said.
 
“We were hoping to finally get access to water to get through the summer, but the government and administration has failed us again. That is why we have now decided to boycott the elections, as no government is doing anything to help us,” Sabale added.

With the Model Code of Conduct in place, there will be no decision to help resolve their crisis in the months of summer when the villagers actually need this water.
 
Tribal activist Ravindra Talpe, who has also been looking into the issue, said, “It is a very unfortunate situation. Almost everywhere across the State, the dams are built in the tribal areas. However, they themselves are denied water.”

Water crisis in the tribal belt of the taluka is very severe. While six of the villages there have lift system to get drinking water, six receive water from two canals. However, it is the six other villages that are located on the upper side of the dam that suffer the most. There is drought-like situation almost throughout the year. However, Sabale stated, the tribals here are not united and aware enough to fight the issues.

“Around 90 per cent of the tribals here are paddy farmers. With groundwater levels very low, the farming here depends only on rainfall. Due to this, the farmers can only take one crop in the year between June to September. Moreover the paddy crop needs water at the time of harvest as well. As the rainfall did not last that long in the area this year, the crop got wasted, giving hardly 10 per cent of produce,” Sable added.

Reacting to the boycott, Pune District Collector Naval Kishore Ram told Sakal Times, “Boycott is not the right approach. Release of water is as per the norms and necessity. We will speak to the villagers. Though, I have not received any such information till now.”

Villages that might boycott the forthcoming election

  • Koltawade (Sagachiwadi)
  • Gohe Khurd
  • Gohe Budruk
  • Rajewadi
  • Pokhari
  • Chikhali
  • Jambhori
  • Nandurkichi Wadi
  • Falode
  • Taleghar
  • Rajpur
  • Gadewadi
  • Terangun
  • Nigdale
  • Mhatarbachi Wadi

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