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Posted at: Mar 30, 2019, 5:29 PM; last updated: Mar 30, 2019, 8:10 PM (IST)

As summer creeps in, parched Ajanta village wants state to intervene

As summer creeps in, parched Ajanta village wants state to intervene
Tourism at Ajanta caves is down to 10 per cent. Tribune photo

Aparna Banerji
Tribune News Service
Jalandhar, March 29

Residents of Ajanta village have sent out a cry for help.  As Marathwada reels under drought, taps in the village of 25,000 have been running dry for the second month in a row, and the creeping summer has the villagers worried.

In a letter to the collector of Aurangabad— the district under which the village and the Ajanta Buddhist caves both fall—the villagers accuse the administration of being apathetic to their plight and “black market” sale of water that goes on in the village.

The letter, signed by 248 villages, has been marked to Fadnavis, Block Development Officer and Tehsildar of the Sillod Taluka. It says that of the 14 tankers of water —that is 30,000 litres—approved for its use on February 6, the village gets only about 2-3 tankers, with the rest going to powerful and well-connected farmers.  

The drought has also severely affected the Ajanta caves, a UNESCO world heritage site. Sources say tourism is down to 10 per cent. With Ajanta’s only source of water— Ajintha Madhyam Andhari Prakalp or the Ajanta Dam Project—already drying up, administration has already declared Sillod tehsil—under which the village falls—drought-affected.

A resident explains the problem thus: “Water supply to the village was snapped at the end of January. Fourteen tankers were earmarked on paper since February but actually only two or three come. It takes 25 days for a household to get water. People are queuing up and travelling to faraway ponds and water bodies to get water. Tourism has also been adversely affected. Black marketing is rampant and a barrel of water is being sold for Rs 80 at the village. It’s just March now. What will we do in peak summer? The administration is totally unresponsive.”  

The Tribune had previously highlighted the looming water crisis at the cave complex as Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation’s pending dues led to snapping of water supply.

The central government meanwhile calls it “a state issue”. Union Minister of State for Tourism KJ Alphons says: “The state matters are under the direct jurisdiction of the state tourism department, the central government only supplements. What is to be done by the state government as per the constitution of India can only be done by them. It’s a state subject. Water is the responsibility of the state government.”

Resident Deputy Collector for Aurangabad Sanjeev Jadhavar said his administration had received the letter.

“We have received the communication from the village and I have marked an enquiry to the Zila Parishad to the allegations of black marketing and less release of water.”

Maharshtra Tourism Minister Jayakumar Jitendrasingh Rawal could not be contacted for his comments.

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