As Gujarat stares at water scarcity after a significant dip in the supply from Narmada dam this year, the state government has registered at least eight FIRs against farmers in different police stations of Saurashtra for pilfering water. All these FIRs have been registered in April itself. Seven of these FIRs were registered for alleged pilferage of water from the bulk pipeline of Gujarat Water Infrastructure Limited (GWIL), a Gujarat government undertaking.
The pipeline carries Narmada water for drinking purpose to Saurashtra and Kutch. Top government sources said that the move was conceived as deterrence against pilfering of drinking water for irrigation.
Seven FIRs have been registered in Bhavnagar, Surendranagar and Jamnagar districts, government sources said. Bhavnagar district has registered six FIRs.
In Surendranagar, one FIR has been registered by the officials of GWIL. In Bhavnagar, the FIRs have been registered for pilfering water in Maglana, Usrad, Dhandhali, Chamardi, Nesda and Vartej villages.
In Surendranagar, GWIL had detected alleged water pilferage from Morthala village.
Notably, sources said, the number of FIRs registered by the state government will be even higher as some more FIRs have been registered by the officials of Gujarat Water Supply and Sewerage Board (GWSSB) for water pilferage from its drinking water supply lines.
The Indian Express had, on April 16, reported one such FIR registered by the GWSSB officials against 18 farmers in Jamjodhpur police station of Jamnagar district on April 14. “All these are FIRs and not simple police complaints. The number of simple police complaints of water pilferage is much higher, “ said a senior officer.
”The message from the government is very clear that it is not going to tolerate pilferage of drinking water by farmers for other purpose like irrigation. It is the government policy every year and more so this year when there is shortage of Narmada water,” the officer added.
The number of FIRs filed against farmers is much higher compared to last year which saw only four such FIRs being registered.
All the FIRs have been registered recording various offences related to water pilferage by farmers such as creating hurdle in the inspection to check water pilferage and attacking the inspection party and to commit water theft by tampering with air valve of the pipeline. The offences have been registered under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code and The Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act.
GWIL has a network of 3,000 km-long bulk pipeline that carries Narmada water for drinking purpose to Saurashtra and Kutch. Similarly, GWSSB has a network of smaller pipelines, running into around 1 lakh km, to provide drinking water to different parts of the two regions.
Every year, the two government bodies face report water pilferage from its pipelines by farmers for irrigation purposes. So far, they chose to ignore it. But this year, the figures show that the government has taken a tough stand against farmers for pilfering drinking water for irrigation.
Narmada is the most important source of water for Gujarat. This year, owing to record rainfall deficit in Narmada’s catchment areas in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat’s share of Narmada water has been halved. To deal with the situation, Gujarat government has taken several unprecedented initiatives to ensure drinking water supply to the entire state till July 31.