3rd national convention of farmers

Water scarcity key issue for cultivation in Rajasthan

SHIMLA: The area under cultivation is gradually shrinking in Rajasthan as farmers are not getting adequate water for sowing due to the reluctance of the Punjab Government to release the legitimate share of water to Rajasthan.

Bhanu P Lohumi

Tribune News Service

Shimla, June 19

The area under cultivation is gradually shrinking in Rajasthan as farmers are not getting adequate water for sowing due to the reluctance of the Punjab Government to release the legitimate share of water to Rajasthan.

This issue was highlighted by Gurbal Pal Singh Sandhu, farmers’ representative from Sriganganagar (Rajasthan), at the third national convention of farmers under the banner of the Kisan Ekta. He alleged that Rajasthan was receiving only 1,100 cusecs of water from Punjab against its decided share of 2,000 cusecs, out of which 400 to 500 cusecs was sewage water.

“The chronic problem of water shortage has become the bane of farmers who are not able to sow the crops and as a result, the area under cultivation is reducing,” Gurbal Pal Singh said.

Talking to The Tribune, he said waste from Phagwara drain, Jamshed drain, Buddha Nullah, Kali Bain, Dhati Bai and Kala Sanghya drain in Punjab got mixed in the waters of the Sutlej and the Beas. The contamination in the Sutlej was alarming and incidence of cancer, skin diseases and water-borne diseases were increasing in Sriganganagar.There were 4,200 to 4,400 small factories in Ludhiana alone, which were releasing industrial waste in rivers. Poisonous chemicals used for electroplating also were seeping in water.

He said there were two treatment plants — Bathia and Kaisabad — but the water was not being treated in these plants and only polythene was segregated.

Blaming Punjab for not releasing the water as per the share allotted to Rajasthan, Gurbal Pal Singh said Punjab released more water to the eastern canal as it catered to constituencies of Badal while the Bikaner canal serving Rajasthan was getting only half of its legitimate share of water.

As the temperatures were hovering around or above 45°C in most parts of Rajasthan, its requirement of water for drinking and irrigation purposes was more, but under the prevailing circumstances, the state could cultivate only 50 per cent of their land.

“Due to shortage of water, we had shifted from cotton to jawahar which fetched Rs 30,000 per quintal, but today the price has crashed to Rs 2,700 and farmers, whose land is near the border (zero line), are the worst affected as they have to grow crops which are less remunerative as the height of crops cannot exceed the given limit in border areas. Moreover, they have to get the permission of the BSF to go to their land at night for watering the crops, he added.

Further, stray cattle had been destroying their crops and there had been incidents in which the only bread-earner in the family fell victim to attacks by wild animals, he said, adding that “in my village 39 RB, there are 25 houses out of which five are locked while five others are about to be locked as the families whose kids are settled in cities are abandoning farming.”

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