Unaddressed water woes of the residents of this village in Adampur assembly segment, about 40km from Hisar, have led them to boycott the assembly elections. Sitting on dharna, residents have not allowed any of the candidates enter the village for campaigning in the past two weeks, alleging that politicians have been failing them for years.
The administration tried to pacify them last week, but to no avail. They say they won’t cast their votes on Wednesday, when the state votes to elect its new government. “We are getting water at `800 per tanker from Rajasthan across the border for years, as the canal supply is irregular and ground water is saline,” Umed Singh, one of the villagers on dharna, told HT.
Budak is the last village of the state on this route, barely a kilometre from the border with Rajasthan. “Each family has to go at least once a week to get water tanker from the Sidmukh canal around 5km away from here in Rajasthan. Sometimes, we have to bribe policemen at the border to get the tankers into the village,” Umed added.
The village has population of over 7,000, with 2,200 eligible voters. They say 6,000 acres of land have dried as rains are irregular and water supply in the canal from Balsamand Main Canal erratic.
It started 15 years ago after Bhajan Lal lost power, the residents rued. Water in the canal started receding since. “From 20 days in a month around 15 years ago, we get water now for seven days a month in the canal. That too is stolen midway,” another villager, Virender Punia, said, showing the empty canal and dried crop of guar in the fields. Two storage tanks were filled with garbage, though after protests the canal was cleaned by the administration recently.
Groundwater supply that the villagers used for cattle was allegedly stopped around a year ago. One said, “A large number of families have sold their cattle,” added Punia. The village has two schools with nearly 400 students.
“Canal water level remains low. So, it cannot be flowed into treatment plants. Hence untreated water is supplied to the school for use in toilets,” said teacher Ram Swaroop at the dharna site. As of drinking water, it is fetched from across the border sometimes by the villagers and on several occasions by the school authorities.
Those in fray here are Bhajan Lal’s son and HJC chief Kuldeep Bishnoi, INLD’s Kulbir Singh Beniwal, Congress’ Satinder Singh, and Karan Singh Ranolia of the BJP.
When contacted, Hisar deputy commissioner ML Kaushik says the administration is aware of the matter and taking “all possible steps”. “A few days ago I had sent a team to get the canal cleared. Boycotting the election is not the solution,” he stresses. He adds, “If they wish to lodge protest, they can use the NOTA (none of the above) option. We hope to pacify them.”
Another official seeking anonymity tells HT that a “tanker mafia” is also working in the border area, “which is also responsible for theft of canal water. He adds that if any action is taken against those supplying water illegally to the fields, officials are “pressured” by politicians not to take any action.