Wheat crop crisis: Amid SYL row, Punjab farmers complain of water shortage

Farmers said that while politicians were making tall statements over SYL, they have not bothered to check the ground realities of the situation in Punjab.

Written by Raakhi Jagga | Ludhiana | Updated: February 24, 2017 7:46:55 am
Farmers clean Kotla branch canal in Bathinda. Express Farmers clean Kotla branch canal in Bathinda. Express

ALTHOUGH POLITICS over Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) canal is going on between Punjab and Haryana, wheat growers of Punjab are asking the authorities to provide sufficient water through existing channels first. Eight villages of Talwandi Sabo in Bathinda district as well as over a dozen villages of Abohar and Balluana in Fazilka district have complained about water scarcity. Farmers said that while politicians were making tall statements over SYL, they have not bothered to check the ground realities of the situation in Punjab. Meanwhile, these villages get water from Kotla branch canal.

On Thursday, villagers of Kankwal, Malkana, Phulokhari, etc. in Talwandi Sabo constituency of Bathinda started cleaning Kotla branch of the canal on their own as they were not getting water in eight villages resulting in damage to the wheat crop, said Nachhtar Singh, who was also involved in clearing silt from the canal.

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He also said, “Yesterday, we sat on dharna outside the office of the canal department to get ourselves heard and today, we have started cleaning the canal ourselves as cleaning of silt can increase flow of water till tail ends.”

The other affected villages are Gattewali, Jogewala, Tangrali, Teona and Giana. Baldev Singh of Phulokhari village said, “Water supply channels to fields have been lowered and hence water in canal is not up to the supply channel and hence we are not getting water for our fields while the sudden rise in temperature has resulted in an emergency need of water for wheat. Moreover, ground water in our area is unfit and hence we have to depend on canal water.”

Gulzar Singh, another farmer of Kankwal village, said, “The SAD government did nothing to solve the water problem of farmers sitting at tail ends. This is always an election issue in our area. Even this time, all the candidates made tall promises. Water supply was up to the mark when poll campaign was on and now shortage can be seen. As polls are over, the true colours can be seen by farmers now.”

Farmers said Jeet Mohinder Sidhu, who had won the by-election as SAD candidate after switching from Congress in 2015, had also made a similar promise, but it remained effective only for a few months.

A similar protest was seen outside the Abohar canal department two days back where farmers of Balluana and Abohar blocks of Fazilka district sat on dharna over water scarcity. Here cleaning of canals – Ramsra Minor, Lambi Minor and Malukpura Minor – had been started by the canal department this season while farmers said that the wheat crop needed water and hence the time chosen for cleaning was not correct. Tail end villages, Gumjal, Usmankhera, Shergarh, etc., have been facing water shortage.

RK Gupta, executive engineer of the canal department from Abohar, said, “We were cleaning canals so that water carrying capacity can increase and hence tail-end villages can get water, but after objection from few farmers, we have suspended the cleaning process and will be doing it when the wheat crop is ready for harvesting.”

Kartar Chand, executive engineer of the canal department in Talwandi Sabo, said, “Cleaning of canals in between is being done to increase the flow of water till tail ends while I have asked employees to regulate water supply of canal so that water is distributed equally among all. This year, cleaning of canals could not be done after paddy season. Hence, silt is causing problem in few areas. In April, thorough cleaning of canals will be done.”

Farmers, meanwhile, are still facing water shortage as unclean canals cannot provide water till tail ends. Vijay Bhadoo, a farmer from Shergarh village, said, “One should see our condition and the condition of canals so as to see the government’s stand over providing water to existing farmers, why talk of SYL.”

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