In drought-hit Bundelkhand, gunmen are hired to guard water body
The president of the Tikamgarh municipality in drought-ravaged Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh has been forced to employ armed guards to deter farmers from neighbouring Uttar Pradesh from ‘stealing’ from their only source of drinking water.
Water in Tikamgarh is worth the extra security after the district received just 473.6 mm of rainfall during monsoon as against an average of 995 mm.
In addition to keeping farmers from UP out, the four local guards — armed with licensed full-length and sawed-off 0.315 bore rifles — also have to prevent farmers from MP from opening the sluice gates to release water in the downstream section of the river for irrigation of crops.
Tikamgarh municipality president, BJP’s Laxmi Giri Goswami told HT that she pays the gunmen from her own pocket. “The district collector asked his counterpart in Lalitpur in UP to ensure that the farmers don’t lift water from the river but they didn’t pay heed. We have no choice but to guard our water supply source,” she said.
“If the source remains guarded, we can be sure of six months of water supply for the town,” she added.
Tikamgarh town has a population of about 90,000 and is divided into 27 wards. While half of the wards receive water from the municipality network once every two days, the remaining wards get it just once in three days. The water supply comes from a stop dam at Baarighat on the Jaamni river, about 5 km from town, which in turn gets water from the Raajghat dam on the MP-UP border.
The gunmen patrol the stop dam and a kilometre-long section of the river during the night. The services of the armed guards so far have been booked for just two months, until the crops are harvested — following which the pressure from farmers is expected to subside.
Meanwhile, the government has stepped up efforts to deal with the three-year drought plaguing the region.
“MNREGS (rural employment scheme) has been scaled up and more stop dams are being created. We are also funding new pipelines for drinking water supply,” said Aruna Sharma, additional chief secretary, rural development.