RESIDENTS OF Gardhi Nagar, a small village near Rajpura, were all agog over the Supreme Court verdict on Punjab’s termination of water-sharing agreement with other states. This was the village that gave more than 100 acres to excavate the SYL canal. Almost every family was effected. Early this year, when the Punjab government asked people to reclaim the land given for the canal, some farmers filled a portion of it to take back their lands.
The canal, villagers say, has been a curse for them. First, they lost their land, then they did not get the promised water and finally, got a pittance for compensation. While political parties were trying to gain maximum mileage from the verdict, the Gardhi Nagar residents felt the issue should be decided once and for all. Either the canal should be levelled or it should have water.
When land was acquired in the late 80s, Jaipal, now 65, used to own 46 acres. Recalling the years when the SYL was being dug up, he said their 23 acres were acquired against a very low compensation of Rs 17,000 per acre. Jaipal, also a numberdaar of the village, said almost all the families had to opt for an alternate income after having lost land. Phool Singh (62), another villager, said, “Now, we are getting nothing and we also do not harbour high hopes from any decision. We think the canal is an issue that is being raked up by all parties. We also want water as we have to shell out thousands of rupees on diesel sets.”
Bispal Singh, a villager in his mid-thirties, said, “The whole village depends on whatever land holdings we have. We only want our suffering to end. If there is water, our land will not get eroded as the banks of the canal will be repaired. And, if levelled, we will benefit from it.”
Around 25 acres were acquired for SYL from Thoha, another village.
Jagdev Singh, a farmer, said, “We do not want to give our water to any other state as it will affect our farmers. We are already struggling with the water availability and now again a new canal.”