By Sandhya Jain
| Vijay Stambh,
Aquiet revolution brewing in arid Rajasthan may well be the blooming of the desert through sustainable techniques of water management along the rediscovered Sarasvati river bed. Rajasthan Chief Minister, Smt. Vasundhara Raje, who led the BJP to a spectacular 120-seat victory two years ago, and then went on to astound her critics by reducing the fiscal deficit, is leading from the front to bring water to this parched State, particularly after the Centre failed to come to her rescue after Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh arbitrarily cut off supplies from the Sutlej.
According to reports, Smt. Raje is examining a proposal to install one million tubewells in the aquifers (ground water bodies) of the central Rajasthan Sarasvati river basin, following reports from the Central Ground Water Authority that potable, glacial waters are available just 30 to 60 metres below the surface. This study, under the then Chairman Dr. D.K. Chaddha, was conducted under a Sarasvati Project of the Union Ministry of Water Resources during the NDA regime. Like the national highways project, revival of the
Saraswati was one of the great dream projects conceived by former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.
It is equally astonishing that no one thought of making a film city in Rajasthan, though its shifting sand dunes have hosted such famous films as Reshma aur Shera and Paheli.
Dr. J.R. Sharma, Director, ISRO Regional Remote Sensing Services Centre, Jodhpur, and his team drew up plans to cope with water logging and crop production in semi-arid zones. The reborn Sarasvati is currently flowing upto Gedra Road in Barmer district, 800 kms from Harike Reservoir. The local people at Mohangarh, 55 kms west of Jaisalmer, call it Sarasvati Mahanadi Roop Nahar.
Rajasthan'swater crisis is literally ruining its poor farmers. Earlier in June this year, a severe water crisis in Tonk resulted in police firing in which five farmers were killed. Congress party President Sonia Gandhi rushed to commiserate with the bereaved families, but failed to explain why UPA was going slow on the proposed National Water Grid, despite assurances given to the Supreme Court to interlink rivers within the next 16 years. Even now, the communist trade unions are agitating for the farmers, but there is no dharna in Punjab to make the Chief Minister release Rajasthan'sshare of Sutlej waters.
A View of the desert
The National Water Grid is a developmental imperative for states like Rajasthan, and under the NDA regime, the National Water Development Agency drew up plans to move Sharada waters into the Rajasthan Canal as part of the plan for Himalayan and Peninsular River Links. This has the potential to take Sarasvati waters up to Sabarmati in Gujarat, quenching the thirst of over 20 crore people in northwestern India, especially in the drought-prone areas of Rajasthan, the Rann of Kutch, and Saurashtra.
Determined to green the desert, Rajasthan joined hands with Madhya Pradesh last month to launch the ambitious Parbati-Kalisindh-Chambal linking project, which had been hanging fire for six years. Nearly 12 maf (million acre feet) of water is available in the Chambal basin, but currently only 3.6 maf given to the Kota barrage is being utilised. Once completed, the link will benefit farmers in Bhind and Morena in MP and Kota, Baran and Bundi in Rajasthan. The two states are also augmenting irrigation and power facilities with four hydel projects on the Chambal, including Rahughat (Rajasthan), Gujipura, Jaipura and Varsla (MP).
Development is thus the keynote of the State under its current dispensation. But this does not mean that its traditional cash cow, tourism, is being neglected. Far from it. Smt. Raje gave a ?royal? dimension to tourism in this royalty-laden State last year with the novel idea of using old royalty to perk up this evergreen industry. The erstwhile Jaipur Maharaja was roped in to ?host? the Tourism Department sponsored Dussehra festival, to the delight of foreign tourists.
Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat addressing
a literacy campain in Rajasthan (File Photo)
This has been followed up with a call for promotion of ?royal? tourism at a Confederation of Indian Industry conclave. Pointing out that Britain reaped enormous benefits from tourism of royal palaces, the Chief Minister has suggested projecting India'sroyal palaces and monuments as major tourist destinations, an idea her government has already taken forward. Undaunted by the carping of critics, a new liquor policy has doubled excise revenues from Rs 800 crore to Rs 1600 crore annually, and is being used to fund a hot mid-day meal project to achieve literacy targets. Given the wealth of monuments in the State, the ?Adopt a Monument? policy is also expected to pick up.
Development is the keynote of the State under its current dispensation. But this does not mean that its traditional cash cow, tourism, is being neglected. Far from it, Smt. Raje gave a ?royal? dimension to tourism in this royalty-laden State last year with the novel idea of using old royalty to perk up this evergreen industry.
Ultimately, whether domestic or foreign, successful heritage tourism requires a massive upgrade in civic amenities, international standards of travel and communication, and above all, good law and order and security. The response from both the police and the law courts have done much to restore confidence that State authorities mean business in this regard.
It is truly surprising that despite being a prime tourist destination all these decades, Rajasthan lacks world class airports, a lacuna now being filled with international airports planned for Jaipur and Udaipur.
Bill Clinton with his daughter
in a Jaipur Royal Palace, Rajasthan
At the same time, its rich museums are being modernised and historic sites like the Amer Fort restored. Non-heritage tourists are being kept in the loop with a world-class golf course, and who knows, one may get to see Tiger Woods there some day. It is equally astonishing that no one thought of making a film city in Rajasthan, though its shifting sand dunes have hosted such famous films as Reshma aur Shera and Paheli; another shortcoming that is now being redressed. As Rajasthan is rich in local fairs and festivals, both film-makers and locals will reap the benefits of the new development.