Farmers, Irrigation Dept in conflict over water cess

MUKTSAR: Already facing a crop failure-like situation during almost every kharif season due to massive rain and faulty drainage system, a majority of farmers in waterlogging-affected Muktsar and Fazilka districts are likely to face another major trouble this paddy season.

editorial@tribune.com

Archit Watts

Tribune News Service

Muktsar, June 11

Already facing a crop failure-like situation during almost every kharif season due to massive rain and faulty drainage system, a majority of farmers in waterlogging-affected Muktsar and Fazilka districts are likely to face another major trouble this paddy season.

The Irrigation Department has decided to shut the water inlets to their fields from Monday due to non-payment of water cess, which was due on May 31. As per the information available, the department has collected just Rs 78 lakh as water cess in these two districts against the actual target of Rs 3.7 crore – about 20 per cent of the target.

To warn the farmers, the Irrigation Department had even decreased the water level in some minor distributaries this Monday. After the requests by farmers that they would pay the cess in a week’s time, the water was again restored to its original level in these distributaries.

However, on seeing the situation remaining almost unchanged during this grace period, the department has decided to close from Monday the water inlets to the fields of all farmers who have failed to pay water cess.

The farmers have to pay water cess at the rate of Rs 50 per acre per crop season. This amount would be deposited in the account of a society formed at the executive engineer level and spent on works like cleaning and de-silting work of canals.

Besides, the repair work of canals in case of any exigency like breach will also be done with this fund.

RK Gupta, Executive Engineer, Irrigation Department, said, “As we have achieved just 20 per cent of the total water cess collection in Muktsar and Fazilka districts, we have appealed to the farmers to pay it or the water inlets will be closed from Monday.”

The farmers’ unions have been opposing this proposed move. Puran Singh Doda, district president, Bharatiya Kisan Union, said, “Our stand is clear that we will not pay water cess to the state government. We will take up this issue in the state committee meeting to decide the future course of action in case the department closes the water inlets.”

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