Mumbai: As Congress
general secretary Rahul Gandhi began his one-day tour of
drought-hit areas of Maharashtra's Satara district Saturday, he
became the third Gandhi after his late father and former prime
minister Rajiv Gandhi and mother Sonia Gandhi to visit the region,
though little has changed there in all these decades.
Accompanied by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and other senior
ministers, Rahul arrived in Satara from Mumbai by a helicopter.
Satara is around 250 km south-east of the country's commercial
During the May 1987 visit by Rajiv, Chavan's mother and party MP
Premilatai Chavan had accompanied the then prime minister to the
Both Rajiv and Premilatai Chavan are no more, but the problem of
acute water scarcity continues to haunt the people of this
southern Maharashtra region.
Later, in 2003, Congress president Sonia Gandhi also toured the
region, again raising hopes of a permanent solution to the drought
crisis. But people's hopes evaporated soon after.
Now, with Rahul visiting the region, the locals hope they might be
"Don't just make promises of giving water, do it..." Rahul
directed officials Saturday.
Probably expecting a high-level trip, Chief Minister Chavan had
last month himself visited the drought-hit areas of Satara, which
also happens to be his home district, and taken stock of the
Ironically, Satara is where the biggest water supply project of
Maharashtra, the Koyna Dam, is located. It is also ranked among
the top hydro-electric power generating stations in the country,
with a capacity of 2,960 MW power per annum.
But, barely a few kilometres away, a large section of the human
and animal population starves for water virtually eight months in
a year. The people are mainly dependent on water tankers, or
trudge many kilometres for a pot of clean drinking water, in what
was the one-time capital of the prosperous Maratha kingdom of
Chhatrapati Shivaji's descendents.
Although blessed with an average of around 140 cms of annual
rainfall, Satara falls in a 'rain shadow' region, as it is
situated to the east of the Western Ghats, where rainfall is
abundant during monsoon.
Thus, while the hilly regions to the west of the district notch as
high as 600 cms of annual rainfall, the 'rain-shadow' Maan
sub-district gets barely 60 cms rains per annum, resulting in
acute water shortage in the district watered by two major rivers,
Koyna and Krishna.
Rahul arrived on a two-day visit to Maharashtra Friday morning and
spent the whole day meeting party activists to assess the
Congress' strengths and weaknesses in the key state ruled by the
party in coalition with the Nationalist Congress Party.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)