A royal mistake that deprives 60 Malerkotla villages of canal water
Despite being in the dark zone due to over-exploitation of groundwater, at least 60 villages in the newly formed Malerkotla district are still dependent on tubewells for irrigation. The reason: these villages are not covered under the canal irrigation system.
A little digging into history reveals that in the 1880s when canal irrigation was being developed in Punjab, the then Nawab of the princely state had “refused to provide land” for the project, the ripple effects of which are being felt now in these villages.
Adding to their woes is the fact that the government has stopped issuing new tubewell connections here due to the dark zone tag.
“We don’t get a single drop of canal water in our villages. Successive governments did nothing to bring our village into the canal irrigation system,” says Ravinder Singh, a Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta-Ugrahan) leader from Kasampur.
As per information, land was acquired in Jhaner, Manki, Sandaur and Panj Garai villages in 1986 to develop canal irrigation system and the compensation against the acquired land was also paid to the farmers but the project never took off. In 2014, the then deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal laid the foundation stone for renovation of Kanganwal and Rohira distributors, at a cost of about ₹25 crore, to consolidate and increase the capacity of canal irrigation in Malerkotla and Amargarh areas but these too met the same fate.
“Almost all villages in Malerkotla are dependent on tubewells for irrigation.Our repeated requests to develop canal irrigation system fell on deaf ears,” said Major Singh (55), a former sarpanch of Burj village.
A former additional deputy commissioner (development) and resident of the area, Bahadur Singh, who raised the issue with the previous Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party government, said, “The Malerkotla Nawab had refused to give land, construction cost and royalty to the private company which developed the canal irrigation system. It was a big mistake.”
Sangrur chief agriculture officer Jaswinderpal Singh Grewal, who caters to the Malerkotla area, said, “Canal water is a boon for crops. It is all the more important as several blocks of Sangrur, Barnala and Malerkotla are in the dark zone and extracting groundwater through tubewells will only aggravate the problem,” added Grewal.