syl canal levelling goes full throttle

Forest wealth plundered; no plaint, say cops

RAJPURA/FATEHGARH SAHIB/ROPAR:The sudden and illegal digging of earth along the banks of the SYL canal that continued today has caused irreparable damage to the precious flora and fauna.

Forest wealth plundered; no plaint, say cops

JCB machines deployed by youth activists of the Akali Dal level the SYL canal at a village near Banur on Wednesday

Aman Sood/Sanjay Bumbroo/Arun Sharma

Tribune News Service

Rajpura/Fatehgarh Sahib/ropar, March 16

The sudden and illegal digging of earth along the banks of the SYL canal that continued today has caused irreparable damage to the precious flora and fauna.

A number of politicians belonging to the Akali Dal and at some places the Congress, along with farmers, were reportedly seen guiding JCB machines to level land adjoining the canal, not bothering about wild animals and reptiles being killed in the process.

Sources said police officials present at the spot were seen clearing the passage. In some cases, they even arranged the JCB machines, they alleged. 

As The Tribune team visited some villages where the digging work was in progress, snakes, rabbits, lizards, partridges and blue bulls were seen running for cover. At Thuha village, farmers killed snakes and some rabbits. The Forest Department has shot off a letter to the respective deputy commissioners, urging them to provide police protection to stop plundering of the green cover. 

“As per records, the area along the SYL canal is covered under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980; Indian Forest Act, 1927; Wildlife Protection Act, 1972; and is also approved by the Indian government working plan. Farmers in thousands have started causing damage to this land by uprooting trees near Rajpura. Till some concrete decision is taken on the matter, the land should be protected,” reads the letter.

Kuldeep Kumar, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, said field officials had brought the matter to the notice of the local administration and “the fact that the wildlife along the SYL has been disturbed is a serious issue as it cannot be revived again. We will write to the police to register cases against violators who entered the protected area after I get the entire report,” he stated. 

More than 150 JCB machines were pressed into service to fill the canal passing through Bassi block of Fatehgarh Sahib district.

Thousands of trees along the banks of the 25-km-long canal stretch, starting from Nagawan village to Beeromajra village were uprooted. Villagers were seen taking away wood on tractor-trailers. 

Ajit Kulkarni, Divisional Forest Officer, said they did not have enough staff to deal with the situation. He said they had reported the matter to the Deputy Commissioner and SSP of Patiala. 

A number of Akali workers led by senior leader Swaran Singh Chanarthal were present at the site near Chunni vilalge. He said the farmers were excited over the government’s decision and had hired JCB machines to fill the canal. 

“Langar” (community kitchen food) from Fatehgarh Sahib gurdwara was arranged for Akali workers and drivers of the JCB machines.

Local farmers, however, wanted the water to flow in the canal as the ground water level was too low. Baljinder Singh of Chunni village of Bassi Parhana block said they were hoping to get canal water to irrigate their fields as the water level was at more than 450 ft. He said they would have to spend more than Rs 5 lakh for digging a tubewell. He, however, said wild animals would no longer damage their crops. It was free for all in Ropar district as farmers with the help of SAD leaders demolished the SYL canal at several places. 

Deputy Commissioner Karnesh Sharma and SSP Varinder Paul Singh said they had received no complaint on the matter and thus, they were not able to stop people from demolishing the canal or uprooting trees.

Levelling work was on at Sarsa Nangal, Saini Majra Dhakki, Makori, Inder Pura, Phulpur Garewal, Majri Jattan, Pathrehri Jattan, Balsandda,Shantpur, Shalapur, Salempur, Ramgarh and Doomchheri villages in Ropar.

Hundreds of trees along the banks of the canal were uprooted. Forest department officials led by range officer Hussan Chand tried to stop people from uprooting trees at Saini Majra Dhakki village, but no one paid any heed to their warnings.

Will seek action: Forest Dept

The fact that the wildlife along the SYL has been disturbed is a serious issue as it cannot be revived. We will write to the police to register cases against violators who entered the protected area after getting a report on the matter. - Kuldeep Kumar, principal chief conservator of forests

The area along the SYL canal is covered under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980; Indian Forest Act, 1927; and Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Farmers in thousands have started causing damage to this land by uprooting trees. Till some concrete decision is taken on the matter, the land should be protected. - Forest officials, in a letter to authorities concerned

‘Trees on our land our property’

The uprooted trees were allegedly taken away by villagers, backed by SAD workers. "I can take this wood as the government says that the land belongs to the persons from whom it was acquired. There is nothing illegal about it," said Harjit Singh, who was seen ferrying wood.

Farmers can’t believe their luck

Rishi Pal, a farmer from Thuha village, said: "I had got just Rs 42,000 per acre compensation when my 22 acres was acquired for the project. The land now costs around Rs 20 lakh per acre. I am extremely happy. I am trying to get the land levelled so that I can start cultivating it at the earliest." Teja Singh of Nangal Sarsa said he had got Rs 1.5 lakh for his 9 acres of land. "Now one acre is sold for Rs 10 lakh in the village," he said. Raunak Singh of Doomchheri village near Morinda said his two acre land was acquired for canal for Rs 1.4 lakh, but now its market price was Rs 20 lakh per acre.

Politics at play

Patiala: A day after Akali Dal leaders led from the front to fill SYL canal bed, the Congress on Wednesday ensured a symbolic end to the canal issue by demolishing a part of it where its foundation was laid. Congress MLAs led by Leader of Opposition Charanjit Singh Channi joined farmers in levelling the SYL canal at Kapoori village where the foundation stone of the canal was laid on April 8, 1982, by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.  Channi said it was then Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh who terminated the river waters agreement to counter the SC directive to complete the canal. "That was the first ever concrete step taken by Punjab on the matter," he said, adding that party workers would work overtime to make SYL land fit for cultivation in a few days. Hundreds of Akali workers, including Patiala Mayor Amrinder Bazaz, started filling the canal bed late Tuesday evening. The administration reportedly has orders from their political bosses to ensure smooth passage to the Akali workers in carrying out the work. At Thuha village in Rajpura, Akali workers pressed into service 12 JCBs to level the canal bed. "We will ensure that the canal is wiped out from Patiala area soon,” said Bazaz.       — Aman Sood

BJP MPs seek PM’s intervention

New Delhi: A delegation of Haryana BJP MPs on Wednesday met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to intervene in a matter pertaining to the SYL canal. The MPs included Union Ministers Birender Singh, Rao Inderjit Singh and Krishan Pal Gujjar. The 15-minute meeting was held in Parliament here. Bhiwani-Mahendragarh MP Dharambir Singh, who was part of the delegation, said Modi had assured the MPs to look into the matter. The BJP leaders informed the PM that the "unilateral" decision of the Punjab Government to denotify land for the SYL project even when the matter relating to sharing of waters was pending in the SC was a "direct assault on federalism". — TNS

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