Given the prospects of drought in several parts of the country and the looming water scarcity because of depleting water table, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday that the government would help construct 500,000 khet talab (farming ponds) as part of the Mahatma Gandhi National Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) to augment water for irrigation.
In the past month, the PM has focused his public speeches on farmers' issues and youth of the country as well as remembering B R Ambedkar. His monthly radio broadcast 'Mann ki Baat' on Sunday was no different.
The PM stressed the need to popularise sports as youngsters constitute 65 per cent of India's population. He said India hosting the FIFA youth world cup in 2017 was a great opportunity to take football to all corners of the country. Incidentally, football is quite popular among the youth in some of the states going to the polls in April - Assam, Kerala and West Bengal.
During the 30-minute broadcast on Sunday, the PM's intent to connect with the country's youth was apparent as he spoke of the Indian cricket team's wins against Pakistan and Bangladesh in the ongoing T20 cricket world cup.
Modi also appealed to students to pick up at least one skill during their holidays.
Referring to the agriculture sector, he said water table was falling in parts of the country. He said small reservoirs should be made to conserve rainwater.
In western Maharashtra, the crisis has deepened even triggering a law and order problem. According to the Groundwater Surveys and Development Agency (GSDA), the water table level has dropped to one metre in about 540 villages across 13 talukas in Pune district.
The PM also asked farmers to make use of the Kisan Suvidha app to get information on farming, weather conditions and prices in wholesale markets. He also advised farmers to reduce the use of fertilisers, saying "It will also reduce costs and increase output."
Modi noted that he would be in Mhow (Madhya Pradesh), the birthplace of Ambedkar, on the occasion of his 125th birth anniversary on April 14. The PM, whose government has come under attack for being anti-Dalit after the suicide of Hyderabad University student Rohith Vemula, highlighted the government's efforts to develop five places associated with Ambedkar's life.