At Kheda Murar, a village about 13km from Rewari town, I R Sharma (80) tills his three-acre farm from “monsoon to monsoon”. “There is no point incurring heavy costs during the dry season as returns will be low or negative,” said the farmer.
Two canals cut through the village. For the past one month they have been dry. What Sharma, a retired armyman earning a pension, can afford, Udmi Gujjar cannot. The 65-year-old farmer is totally dependent on agriculture and is worried about his wheat crop. “Farming here is largely dependent on God. Canal is dry on most days. It has regular water only when it rains,” said Gujjar.
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As Haryana and Punjab continue their 30-year-old slugfest over the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal, in the villages of the Rewari-Narnaul belt the endless wait for water is routine. The stretch is one of the driest in Haryana. While canals — if a village is lucky to have it — have irregular flow, water table have been going down steadily. It is also at the far end of the SYL canal chain where the Haryana government hopes to provide water once the main channel is operationalised.
Dhara Singh, village sarpanch, was a schoolboy when he first heard of the canal. He is 47 now. “That was Indira Gandhi’s time. We were told there would be plenty of water. It would bring prosperity. But our fields are still dry,” said Singh.
“Over the years the village has only become poorer. Water table is going down so one has to dig deeper incurring heavier cost even as crop prices remain stable,” he added. This is one of the reasons why no one grows water-intensive paddy in the belt.
Kheda Murar is a large village with 600 families, almost all dependent on agriculture. It is also located at the end of the water channel and “so gets less water”.
Those who can afford it have set up tubewells, but power too is erratic. Badlu Ram, 65, irrigates his fields with the help of a tubewell. “It’s an expensive affair; not reliable, as power is irregular. Power cost is high too. But we cannot depend on the canal water. I have lost many a crop waiting for water. So I got this tubewell. But I had to go over 100 feet deep. Earlier water was available at 40 feet,” he said.
He is still lucky. The canal flowing through the area has helped raise the water table. In villages such as Manglesar Majri, adjacent to Kheda Murar but away from the canal, one has to dig 250-feet to find water.
Villagers claim it takes over a year to get permission to set up a tubewell, which does not happen without paying bribes. “Setting up the tubewell itself will cost you Rs 1 lakh. Then you have to keep the electricity guys happy so that at crucial hours you get uninterrupted supply,” said Jadish Pal, 55. Though many wish for more water in the canal, those who have heard the latest controversy are convinced it will never happen.
“I don’t think the SYL canal will ever come. It’s been more than 30 years we have been hearing this. Punjab can do gundagardi, but we can’t…It’s an NDA government in Haryana, Punjab and Centre. If still the SYL canal can’t be built, who do we blame?,” said Sharma.
Water crisis is creation of Centre: Phoolka
Ludhiana: The water crisis of Punjab is a creation of the central government, said AAP leader H S Phoolka. “In 1976, Indira Gandhi Congress government and subsequently in 1982 again Indira Gandhi Congress government created these crisis and deprived people of its due rights over Punjab water,” he said. “The present Central government has the same powers and it can restore the rights of Punjab. But Badal sahib, instead of forcing its own government at Centre, is diverting the issue and creating the conflict between the people of Punjab and the Supreme Court.” The Centre has the power to withdraw the case from the SC through the President and resolve the issue itself, he added. ENS