July 20, 2019 12:27:56 am
Police booked 19 farmers for allegedly pilfering water from a canal of Narmada dam project and damaging the structure of the canal in the process in Halvad taluka of Morbi on Thursday.
Based on a complaint filed by Rajendraprasad Pandya, deputy executive engineer of Dhrangadhra branch canal of Narmada, Halvad police booked 19 farmers under IPC Sections 430 (mischief by injury to works of irrigation or by wrongfully diverting water), 188 (violation of notification issued by competent authority) and 114 (abettor present when offence is committed).
The farmers are residents of Halvad town and Nava Ghanshyamgadh village of Halvad taluka in Morbi district and have their agricultural farms along the distributory canal No. 18 of Dhrangadhra branch canal and Halvad minor canal No.1.
“After receiving complaints from a few farmers, we, led by the sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) of Morbi and Halvad mamlatdar, made spot visits and found that farmers had been drawing water from the canal illegally and were causing damage to the structure of the canal. Therefore, on instructions of the SDM, we filed a complaint against the farmers,” Pandya told The Indian Express.
Maliya, Dhrangadhra and Morbi branch canals of Narmada project pass through Halvad, the taluka in Morbi district known for its cotton cultivation. As groundwater is available in some measure in this taluka, farmers had sown cotton in their land towards the end of summer. However, the taluka has received only nine millimetre rain so far this monsoon against its annual long-term average of 450 mm. Consequently, many farmers are running short of irrigation water. Therefore, following instructions from the state government, the Sardar Sarovar Nigam Limited (SSNNL) started releasing water in the Dhrangadhra branch canal on July 4. “Water reached Halvad on July 6. Since then, we are supplying water to farmers in varying quantity,” the deputy executive engineer said.
Halvad had faced a drought last year too. The taluka had recorded only 130 mm rain during the entire monsoon season last year. It was among the lowest in the entire Saurasthra region and accounted for only 27.85 per cent of its long-term average. Morbi district as a whole registered only 228 mm rainfall, just 43.63 per cent of long-term average for the taluka.
Halvad police inspector Mahesh Solanki said they initiated an investigation in the case. “We are in the process of doing panchnama of the crime scene. Further investigation is on. However, nobody has been arrested so far,” Solanki told The Indian Express on Friday.
Narmada dam is designed to supply irrigation water to 18 lakh hectare land in drought-prone areas of Saurasthra, Kutch and north Gujarat regions as well as some areas of central Gujarat. However, the SSNNL is still digging minor and sub-minor canals which are designed to flow Narmada waters to fields of farmers. As the canal network is incomplete, farmers install diesel engine on the embankment of canals to draw water and pump it to their farms. Some simply lay siphon pipes and use gravity flow to take water to their fields. While these methods of drawing water are not authorised, SSNNL usually does not take penal action against farmers, with officers maintaining that the water in canals is prima facie meant for farmers.
Pandya said the accused farmers had been pilfering water by installing 15 siphon pipes in the canal and by damaging a pipeline of a sub-minor canal in their area.
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