Modi interacts with Bidar district GP president on water conservation

Srinivas Jonnakeri of Dhupadamahagaon in Aurad taluk employed village labourers to dredge and clean lake

After launching the Jal Shakti Abhiyan: Catch the Rain campaign, the Union Jal Shakti Ministry’s flagship campaign for water conservation, on the occasion of World Water Day on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, through video conferencing, interacted with the heads of five Gram Panchayats – one each from Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand – who had made significant contributions for water conservation in their neighbourhoods and commended their efforts.

Srinivas Jonnakeri, president of Dhupadamahagaon Gram Panchayat in Aurad taluk of Bidar district, was one among them. Mr. Jonnakeri’s initiative and efforts in mobilising his villagers under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and dredging a village lake – Goggavvanakere – during the COVID-19 lockdown had caught the attention of the Jal Shakti Ministry.

Mr. Jonnakeri has been a part of Team Yuva, a group of dedicated volunteers that has been working for water conservation in Bidar district ever since its formation in 2013. The group has dredged over 350 wells and kalyanis and 30 lakes so far and gave new life to them. It played a key role in convincing the district administration for cleaning and rejuvenation of the historical Karez, a horizontal underground water body with vertical openings for water collection and recharge that connected different places across Bidar city, which was built by Bahmani kings in the 15th Century.

“The Prime Minister spent more time, appropriately six minutes, with me than any other Sarpanchs who were selected for today’s interaction. As I was told by the administration a day before the interaction, I briefed the Prime Minister only on my recent activities in the field of water conservation. The Prime Minister inquired whether I was supported by the villagers and I told him that all the water conservation activities were taken up with the consent and the active support of the people as it was their requirement. The Prime Minister appreciated my initiative and asked me to continue,” Mr. Jonnakeri told The Hindu after his interaction with the Prime Minister.

A large screen was put up in the village for facilitating the villagers to watch the interaction live. Mr. Jonnakeri told the Prime Minister that his villagers would, standing before the screen, pledge to conserve water.

The Goggavanakere, a 1.5-acre lake that was named after 12th Century Sharane and the contemporary of reformer Basavanna, was almost full of silt and lost its water holding capacity. After assuming power as the president of Dhupadamahagaon GP, Mr. Jonnakeri was contemplating the lake dredging. The COVID-19 lockdown gave him an opportunity to mobilise his village labourers and employ them for the task under the job scheme as the labourers were almost jobless at the time. Apart from dredging the lake, the workers also cleaned and dredged the smaller streams that carried the rainwater to the lake.

“Now, the lake has held a good amount of water and the entire village is using it. I am going to similarly focus on the other smaller tanks and wells in the village,” Mr. Jonnakeri said.

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