NINETEEN DAYS after a heavy downpour left countless agricultural fields in several villages of Fazilka inundated and damaged, meetings were conducted Thursday to install ‘temporary’ transformers, sanction funds for diesel to pump out water.
The fields have been waterlogged since August 22 and have begun to emanating a foul smell. Over 1 lakh acres of area under agriculture have been affected, of which 85,000 acres are in Abohar sub-division alone, with the rest being in Fazilka and Lambi villages. “We were called today to the sub-divisional magistrate’s office in Abohar where we were told that money will be released for diesel for generators and even transformers will be installed to pump out water using electricity from fields. We have been told that farmers need not worry about money,” said Labh Singh, a farmer from Bhangala village of Balluana constituency, whose cotton fields have been under water since August 22.
Asked as why no relief was being provided earlier, J S Brar, sub-divisional magistrate (SDM), Abohar, said, “Help was being provided from day 1, but we were draining out water, and more was coming from villages towards Lambi side via Aspal drain. Hence the result was bare minimum. A total of 8-10 motors were in place from day 1 itself and now around 10 more motors have been installed. From Friday, work will happen at a faster pace.”
“Earlier, all water channels were full to the brim and now the water levels have come down a little. The canals too have less water supply, due to which they can be used to drain out water. Water is being drained out via the Aspal drain, Abul Khurana drain, Sarawan Bodla drain,” said Sukhjit Singh, executive engineer of the drainage department. However, no timeline has been given for draining out water from all the fields.
The Rs 2,246 cr given to Punjab before 2014 polls to fix the problem
While visiting Fazilka to assess the damage with two Cabinet ministers on Wednesday, PPCC chief Sunil Jakhar had said that Rs 2,246 crore had been sanctioned by the then Manmohan Singh government before 2014 elections to fix the water-logging problem faced by south-west Punjab. The amount was released in parts during the reign of the Modi government. Out of this Rs 1,200 crore was meant for realignment of the Rajasthan feeder and Sirhind canal where seepage problem exists, and this is the reason for the rise in water table in many parts of south-west Punjab as water is seeping towards farm areas. Out of this, Rs 100 crore was meant for realignment of the drain system. Jakhar said, “As all this money came during the SAD-BJP government being in power till early 2017, they need to explain where the money was spent…”
Residents won’t accpet these misleading statements: Sukhbir
SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal said, “The Congress leadership, including their state president, are not yet able to realize that it’s their party that is ruling the state for the past three-and-a-half years. They always try to shift the blame on the previous SAD-BJP government. However, people are vigilant enough. They aren’t going to accept any misleading statement anymore and the same was cleared to them during their visit to Lambi and Balluana villages. Farmers whose crops on thousands of acres got damaged due to this man-made disaster which occurred due to the collapse of the drainage system, didn’t even allow the Congress ministers and state president to speak in various villages. They outrightly rejected their announcement of compensation as the amount was too less and it was meant for only those having land less than 5 acres.”
He further said, “Whereas they talk about the multi-crore water-logging project carried out by the SAD-BJP alliance during its tenure, it’s their admission that the SAD-BJP government put stern efforts to make people get rid of the menace but did they (Cong govt) name any single project carried out in their three-and-a-half-years rule? About the faulty design of some drain, the Congress leadership must first come out of deep slumber and see that 3/4th of their tenure has already lapsed and they failed to execute a single promise made to farmers. They are still waiting for the loan waiver, which was the Congress’ poll plank. It’s not about the SAD leadership, every single child of this region knows that during Badal Sahab’s government, these drains used to be cleaned every season and his government never let farmers face any loss due to the water-logging. Apart from the surface drains, underground water pipes were also laid in the affected fields and the government ensured that farmers get maximum yield out of their land.”
The SAD chief also said, “During my two-day visit to the affected villages falling in Lambi, Balluana and Jalalabad constituencies, people openly termed the incumbent government a ‘defunct’ government which was not even ready to give an ear to the affected villagers. There were about 60 villages in the region, which not only suffered the loss of standing crops but also had nothing to feed their cattle. With no supply of drinking water and also lacking medical care, they are seriously crying for government help but CM Sahab is unwilling to look outside his farmhouse. However, the Shiromani Akali Dal volunteers are there in villages, supplying drinking water, fodder and SGPC has also sent medical teams to check the outbreak of any disease.”
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