Alleging that the BJP government's ongoing 'Narmada Mahotsav Yatra' is a ploy to misguide people ahead of the state assembly elections, former Gujarat Chief Minister Suresh Mehta today claimed the project still stands incomplete and the dam water has reached less than 12 per cent of the total 17.92 lakh hectares land. "The government's 'Narmada Mahotsav Yatra', a two-week long state-wide event to celebrate the increase in the height of the Narmada Dam to 138.68 metres, makes no sense as the dam water has reached just 11.67 per cent of the 17,92,000 hectares land it is planned to cover under the project, as the BJP government is slow in its implementation," Mehta said. So far, the project has covered 2,09,057 hectares of land. The Yatra is a ploy to misguide the people ahead of the state assembly elections, he alleged. On September 6, the government launched the Yatra to celebrate the completion of Sardar Sarovar dam on the Narmada river. "As per the government projection, even if the agricultural land covered under the project is increased by 1,21,103 hectares in the next two years, it will still remain 18.42 per cent of the total targeted area," he told reporters here. Mehta also claimed that the BJP-ruled state government reduced the canal network plan under the project to 71,784 km from 90,389 km originally planned, "without necessary permissions." "Even after this, the construction of 22,677 km is yet to be done," he said. He claimed that the government has said that it will construct 3,856 kms of canal network in 2017-18. "At this pace, it will take another eleven years for the project to complete," he said. While important aspects like the construction of branch canals and minor canals move at a slow pace, the government has, in the last four financial years, allocated Rs 36,000 crore for the project, he said. "The project cost was originally estimated at Rs 9,000 crore, but due to the delay in its completion, it has since swollen up to Rs 56,286 crore. Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) had, in 2012, estimated the cost of the project at Rs 72,000 crore," Mehta said, "Between 2015 and 2017, Rs 18,050 crore was allocated to the project, but we cannot see the work on the ground.
So, where is it going?" he asked. He also alleged that the fund for the statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, being constructed at Kevadiya in Narmada district, was being diverted from the budgetary allocation made to the Sardar Patel Narmada Nigam Limited, a government body to implement the project. As part of the 'Narmada Mahotsav Yatra', 84 chariots, will travel across Gujarat "to spread awareness about the importance of the Narmada project. The Yatra would culminate in Dabhoi town of Vadodara district on September 17, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi would attend the closing ceremony. September 17 happens to be Modi's birthday. The event comes ahead of Assembly polls, due by the year-end. The ruling BJP has decided to make the completion of Sardar Sarovar Dam a major campaign plank. Mehta was the BJP chief minister from 1995 to 1996 After that he had quit the party.
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