September 10, 2020 10:35:12 am
Eighteen days after overflow of water channels after a heavy downpour led to severe waterlogging in over 60 villages of Fazilka district, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee president Sunil Jakhar, Revenue Minister Gurpreet Kangar and Irrigation Minister Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria visited Balluana, Abohar and Jalalabad and couple of other villages to find agricultural fields still submerged.
On August 25, 15,000 acres were found to have been damaged. The number has now crossed over 1 lakh acres of agricultural land and girdwari (assessment) is yet to take place as the water has still not been drained out.
Farmers here are a worried lot. Animals are without fodder and they are unsure whether fields will be ready for wheat crop or not.
Incidentally, SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal also visited villages in the area for the second time in the last three days.
It had rained heavily on August 21 and 22 for about 10 hours and inbetween, scanty rainfall occurred in many villages.
Permanent solution not possible now: Jakhar
At Bhangala village of Balluana constituency, Jakhar, who himself is from Abohar, said, “This is a perennial problem for farmers and it needs a proper solution. Looking at the financial situation where the Centre has washed its hands off from helping the state, a permanent solution is not possible as of now, but we will provide whatever relief we can. Our primary goal is to drain the fields and make them ready for sowing of wheat…Many houses have been damaged and even farmers need some immediate help.”
The PPCC chief blamed the previous SAD-BJP government in the state as well. “The zig-zag design of drain (Aspal drain) which starts from Lambi constituency is the bone of contention. This drain was laid during the SAD-BJP tenure, due to which farmers of Lambi — which is the former CM’s constituency — dump water in this drain to save their fields. Hence the gain of Lambi farmers is loss of Fazilka district farmers. They are in low lying areas, hence they get flooded when Lambi does not need water, and faces drought when they need water as farmers there take most of the water from irrigation channels.”
He further said, “As cotton crop was near maturity, it will also affect the total arrival of crop in mandis this year. Apart from cotton, paddy as well as kinnow orchards have been affected.”
Indirectly referring to Sukhbir Badal, Jakhar said, “Those who are roaming in the area and are claiming to be farmer-friendly need to first explain the design of Aspal drain. Next they need to explain where Rs 2,246 crore — which was sanctioned by the Manmohan Singh government in 2009-2014 to solve the water-logging problem of south-west Punjab — were spent. It means that money was spent on sangat darshans of then CM Parkash Singh Badal and now farmers are suffering. One needs to know the background behind the incident.”
In south-west Punjab, saline water which is unfit for drinking as well as irrigation accumulates at a depth of 2-10 feet below the ground. Hence, rainwater cannot seep in easily, due to which flooding occurs when it rains heavily. Revenue Minister Gurpreet Singh Kangar said, “We have asked the department to assess damage at the earliest and compensate every farmer irrespective of their party affiliation.”
The revenue department of Fazilka had initially said that only 6,600 acres of land had suffered damage. Sarkaria said, “Farmers will be provided green fodder for animals as fodder has also been damaged.”
Taking stock of the situation, Sarkaria directed the officials to immediately press the pumps in service to drain out water from fields to ensure timely sowing of next crop. He said that nodal officers would be appointed to monitor the drainage. He also instructed officials to ensure that inhibited areas do not get waterlogged and underlined the need to bring out a comprehensive project to find a permanent solution.
Sukhbir Badal’s second visit
Sukhbir on Wednesday visited villages including Balluana, Jalalabad and Abohar. At Ghuriana, he said, “Thousands of acres of cotton have been damaged and Congress government is unmoved. No officer has been deputed to listen to the grievances of farmers. No compensation has been awarded to them and no effort has been made to install pipes to drain out water from affected fields.”
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