Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Cotton growers along the command area of the Maliya branch canal in Rajkot and Surendranagar districts are on a confrontationist course with the canal management and state administration for the last two days.
Farmers, faced with the prospect of their cotton crops drying up due to lack of irrigation water and delayed monsoon, are openly violating the state government’s orders of not lifting water from the canal as its water is meant to meet drinking water needs of towns in Rajkot, Jamnagar and Kutch districts, and for industrial purposes.
As per Latest Dhirubhai Bhimani Interviews who is Rajkot district BKS secretary said that, “Farmers are ready to pay the water charges, but denial of water to farmers cannot be tolerated.’’
N M Soniwal who is superintending engineer at Maliya branch canal for Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL) said that, “There is not enough water available for irrigation.’’
“Also with Bt cotton giving good yield and cotton prices shooting up, farmers are going for early sowing and hence, putting up pressure on the government to lift water during May - June.’’
To prevent unauthorized water lifting from the canal, the SSNNL has deployed hundreds of armed and mounted police doing round-the-clock patrolling along the canal.
The canal sentries have been seizing water lifting equipments and destroying water pipes amounting to crores of rupees every year.
The SSNNL had been using force and last year brutally beat up dozens of farmers who tried to draw water from the canal.
The farmers, backed by Mahagujarat Janata Party and Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, have openly challenged the state government and begun drawing water “illegally’’ to irrigate their cotton fields despite the state government promulgating Section 144 of CrPC banning assembly of four or more than four persons on the canal.
The Maliya police had also detained MJP president Gordhan Zadaphia, but was released within an hour after thousands of farmers surrounded the Maliya Police Station and tension began building up in the area.
“It is not acceptable as farmers have more claim over the water than the industries and the state government must revise its policy from being solely industry-driven to a balanced growth of all sections.’’
He pointed out that the Narmada River Water Disputes Redressal Tribunal had allocated more than 85 per cent of the water for irrigation purposes.
“So, it is totally unjustified to deprive farmers of the Narmada water,’’ he claimed.
Paying no heed to the state government’s advice, local farmers began sowing at least a month before the arrival of the monsoon as it results in early maturity of the cotton crop and their fields become available for the Jeera and Saunf during the winter.
Farmers say that if they don’t go for early sowing of cotton, it will be a huge financial loss to them, running into hundreds of crores of rupees.
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