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Haryana: STF detects 650 canal water theft cases in first 3 weeks

Hindustan Times, Chandigarh | By Rajesh Moudgil, Chandigarh
PUBLISHED ON FEB 17, 2020 11:24 PM IST

Formed just about three weeks ago by Haryana government to detect and check the theft of canal waters by farmers in the state, the special task force (STF) has lodged over 650 police cases against defaulting farmers for usurping the rights of other beneficiaries. The team also claims to have so far saved 150 cusec water from being siphoned off.

With a humongous task abreast, the STF, in anticipation of conflicts with farmers in Rabi season, has sought about 150 constables with three DSPs. Its brief: to feed 100% tails by September 30, 2020, on regular basis.

“We have already witnessed a couple of instances in which we were confronted by the farmers though the matter did not aggravate,” said STF member secretary, Vinay Grow, who is the executive engineer in the irrigation department. He added that the raiding teams, however, foresee difficult times in the Rabi (summer/monsoon) season when paddy – a water guzzler crop – is sown in almost the entire state precipitating more incidence of canal water theft.

“The situation – dearth of water coupled with common tendency of the farmers to prefer water guzzler paddy – is grave,” says Satbir Singh Kadian, chief engineer, irrigation, who heads the STF. “However, the STF’s consistent vigil has resulted in 1,335 tail-ends, of total 1,354 now getting fed successfully,” he adds.

According to Kadian, the reasons behind the dried up tail-ends include the shortcut paths created by farmers who did not get water from channels to fill them and the long neglect by the department leading to crumbling of canals. “However, now we have funds of 100 crore to rebuild these canals in Bhiwani, Jui, Siwani, Sirsa and Hisar areas,” he adds.

CAUSE AND EFFECT

The formation of STF is subsequent to the alarmingly huge volume of canal water theft by farmers. Records establish that up to 10% of the total available water is stolen. This hits the tail-end farmers the hardest as they do not get enough water for their crops and over the years, their drinking water has also been linked to canal water.

Surface water being available from only two sources— Yamuna and Bhakra— is barely sufficient to cater to the agricultural as well as domestic needs of fresh water. While the supplies from Bhakhra are steady but in Yamuna the flow varies from as high as 8 lakh cusec to merely 2,000 cusec and during peak seasons in summer.

While Yamuna with about 400 km run has upper reaches in Yamunanagar, Karnal, Panipat and Rohtak, its tail-ends are in Sonepat, Rewari, Narnaul, Bhiwani and Charkshi Dadri. Bhakra, also with about 400-km run, has upper reaches are in Ambala, Tohana, Fatehabad and Kaithal, its down stream is in Sirsa, Hisar and Fatehadbad.

“Canal watching staff and tail-end farmers are the main informers and we act on tip-offs, crackdown the area, lodge a case with police in case of detection of water theft and also inform the defaulting farmer how it was unwise to use excessive water for the farmers and their land. Sadly, in some cases we have even noticed that some unscrupulous elements even sell off canal water to farmers whose fields are located at some distance by creating channels,” he added. Checks by STF on the water theft has led to availability of more water in Loharu canal by 150 cusec during last month.

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