Sarpanches of 34 villages in Ranpur taluka of Botad district on Monday submitted a memorandum to district collector Suresh Pandya demanding release of Narmada water for irrigation. They also threatened to resign en-masse if state government did not release more water into Botad branch canal of Narmada project. One of the sarpanches even tried to self-immolate but was stopped by police.
The sarpanches gathered at the office of the district collector around 12:30 pm. But as soon as Manji Solanki, sarpanch of Jalila village reached there with his bike and a can of kerosene, he was detained by police. Solanki had on Sunday announced that he would commit suicide on Monday to demand irrigation water for farmers through the Botad canal. He was produced before a magistrate and released on bail.
After the detention, the other sarpanches submitted a memorandum to the collector and said they all will tender their resignations if the demand was not met.
“Farmers are already getting water from the canal for irrigation but the sarpanches are demanding more water. After their representation, I have written to chairman and managing director of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL) on the matter. Botad district, including Ranpur taluka, has a deficit of rainfall and crops are drying. Their demand is genuine and government will take appropriate decision,” the collector told The Indian Express.
Botad is a major cotton growing district. However, almost all of Saurashtra, including Botad, are currently going through a dry spell and crops are withering due to unavailability of irrigation water. Dams in the region have not got half their fill and the region has not got rain since late July.
SSNNL officials said they are allowing farmers to lift water from Botad canal but water is not reaching the tail-end. “We are releasing 800 cusec (cubic feet per second) of water into the canal from Dholidhaja dam in Surendranagar. Farmers are lifting water from the canal through diesel pumps and syphon pipes. Due to dry spell, wells have dried and more farmers have started lifting water and water is not reaching the tail end,” Lakshman Parmar, executive engineer of Saurashtra Branch canal division of Surendranagar and Botad, said.
Parmar further said that water was reaching up to 106 km of the Botad canal. “The total length of the canal is 109 km and to ensure that water flows to the tail end, we had recently removed 500 diesel pumps and syphon pipes upstream. Farmers of Ranpur had also tried to open escape gates of the canal to release water in Goma river in Ranpur last month,” added the engineer.