Tuesday, July 18, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Tackling waterlogging 

WHEN in February, 1997, engineers of the Punjab Irrigation Department took up the task of tackling the waterlogging and salinity problem, they had before them the history of having successfully handled, at least twice before, a similar problem.

The first opportunity arose around 1926 when the waterlogging appeared in the canal colony areas in the “Chaj & Rachna Doabs” (the areas situated between the Jhelum and the Chenab, and the Chenab and the Ravi). The second time was after the October, 1955, rain when nearly the whole of Punjab got waterlogged.

After the abnormal rain in 1925, the waterlogging problem became more pronounced and widespread in Punjab. It led to the appointment of the Waterlogging Enquiry Committee by the Punjab Government. This committee was assigned the task to study and report on the extent and causes of waterlogging which had assumed “serious proportions in the irrigated areas newly developed”. The committee was also required to suggest “preventive and curative measures”. It undertook valuable “statistical investigations” and experimental work.

The task of preparation of the Master Plan for Flood Control, Drainage and Waterlogging was entrusted by the Punjab Government to an action committee headed by the Financial Commissioner (Revenue). This committee was asked to recommend measures necessary for combating the flood menace in addition to waterlogging.

After detailed consideration it made the following recommendations: (i) Minimise, if not totally prevent, the flooding by the streams, rivers, etc. (ii) Improve surface drainage. (iii) Line the watercourses, main canals and distributaries to reduce seepage losses (if found economically feasible). (iv) Installation of an adequate number of tubewells and revival of the percolation wells since fallen into disuse, so as to “stabilise the sub-soil water at an upper level. (v) Construction of “seepage drains parallel to the existing channels” (termed toe drains).

The preparation of the Master Plan was taken up and the document was approved by the Punjab Cabinet under the chairmanship of Partap Singh Kairon. It came into force in November, 1961, and the total estimated cost of the works was put at Rs 4.02 crore.

So far as the current situation is concerned, the construction work was taken up on a “piecemeal” basis — in sub-projects — and no Master Plan was framed and put to the Punjab Cabinet for “sanction”. The approved project reports were sent to NABARD directly and did not follow the route earlier followed by the schemes — through the Committee of the Chief Engineers, the Technical Committee comprising the heads of various other departments like the PWD, the Railways and Public Health Department and the State Flood Control Board.

The task of excavating the drains was taken from the “top downwards” and the “outfall” is yet to be built (the notification for acquiring land has only recently been issued). Every engineering student knows that the construction of a canal should be taken up from the head downwards and the drains outfall end-upwards. That is why the RD Zero of the drain is at the “outfall end” and that of the canal the RD Zero is at its head. In this case the RD Zero was fixed at the crossing of the drain under Gung Canal, but now the portion of the drain to be built is entitled “Extension” and it would be a 20-km-long one.

The paradox that obtains is due to the work being done in a piecemeal fashion without an approved Master Plan while having the results of the previous efforts with us.

Water Resources Consultant, CII

Shocking situation

This has reference to the news item “New machines lying unused in PGI” (The Tribune, July 13). Earlier there was a report that the TMT machine in the PGI had been out of order for three years, followed by a news-item that the CT Scan machine had not been functioning for a long time.

There was again a Tribune report a couple of weeks back that a young girl, Simran Uppal, who had met with a road accident was taken to the PGI with severe head injuries, and there was no doctor to attend to her for two hours and hence her painful and tragic end.

It is a matter of pain and sorrow to see such a poor state of affairs at the premier medical institution of the country. There should have been a set of six machines for TMT, CT Scan and MRI at the PGI in good working condition.

The Administrator of the Union Territory must order an enquiry into the poor functioning of the PGI.

SAS Nagar

Equality before law

As per a news item the British Prime Minister’s son was arrested by the police for being drunk in public (July 7). Ever heard of such prompt action against a VVIP’s ward for an offence in India?

Comparisons are odious but then democracies also differ in their functioning and end results. What matters ultimately is not the outward form, the much-trumpted ‘virtues’ of a country’s Constitution, however, embellished with lofty ideals and high-sounding promises it may be, but what it delivers to the people on the ground in terms of their economic development, civilisational values and justice. As the saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Equality before the law is one of the pillars of democracy.



Patients deserve sympathy

Colonel Uppal has rightly described the death journey of Simran, his daughter. The PGI authorities have refuted the charges vehemently and tried to escape the responsibility instead of accepting the shortcomings at their level. They must learn a lesson and have a thorough examination of their working.

As stated by the PGI authorities, nobody lodged a complaint with them. Can the attendants of a patient in such a situation afford to lodge a complaint instead of making efforts to save the patient’s life, especially in the case of head injury. If the PGI authorities are so sure about their perfect working they should throw the matter open to the public to know the views of all concerned.

On September 10, 1995, my daughter Ekta, who was 13 at that time, was referred by General Hospital to the PGI after examining her CT Scan report that there was spontaneous bleeding in the brain. I took my daughter to the PGI’s Emergency Block. I told the doctor that it is a brain haemorrhage case and the patient should be attended to immediately. The doctor shot back, “How do you know it’s a haemorrhage case?” I told him that the CT Scan report shows so. He sent me to another doctor, who told me to bring a stretcher.

From here the behaviour of the PGI staff was worth noticing. The person on duty did not allow me to take a stretcher although there were four available at that time. When I pleaded with him that the doctor had advised me to bring the stretcher as it was a case of head injury and any delay might be harmful to the patient. The reply came, “I don’t bother even if your daughter dies.”

I tried to make further requests but the person concerned got so annoyed that it appeared that he was going to hit me. He would have if I had uttered a word or more. Somehow the doctor agreed to examine the patient on the bed of another patient. But then the doctor left for tea without examining the patient and returned after 45 minutes. The security people were very rude.

I fully endorse the impressions of Colonel Uppal because I too suffered the same way as he did. Consequently, my daughter is now leading a life of a mentally retarded child.

The only silver-lining during my 43 days’ stay at the PGI was the good behaviour of some senior doctors and their team members.



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