Skip to main content

Irrigation bill: Gujarat government has given "draconian' powers to government officials"

Narmada canal
By Cedric Prakash*
The Gujarat Government has done it again! On February 26, 2013, it tabled the Gujarat Irrigation and Drainage Bill, 2013 which seeks to make it compulsory for farmers to get a licence to draw water from a canal or ground well beyond a certain limit and prescribes penal action including imprisonment against the errant farmers.
In a year designated by the United Nations as the International Year of Water Cooperation, the bill is absolutely draconian in nature clearly aimed against the small farmer and heavily weighing in favour of industrialists and powerful vested interests.
The bill was passed “unanimously”, after the Opposition in the Gujarat Assembly staged a walk-out demanding that the bill have a wider consultation and that all contentious portions from it be deleted immediately. The leader of the Opposition Mr. Shankersinh Vaghela stated “the bill was originally brought by the British who wanted to control the farmers. The State Government should withdraw the bill and form a committee to study it.”
The new bill seeks to replace the Bombay (Gujarat) Irrigation Act 1879 which was first enacted by the British 134 years ago. The bill has several contentious provisions, among them are:
· farmers need a licence to draw water from canals or ground well beyond a limit
· violations incur a six month jail term or a fine of Rs.10,000/-
· those farmers who have their land near a canal have to pay for the water even if it reaches them by percolation or leakage
· the appointment of “Canal Officers” with unbridled magisterial powers including to take into custody ‘erring’ farmers
On reading the bill, one is simply aghast at the way the farmer is targeted through this draconian bill. The sum and substance of this bill focuses on ‘policing, penalties and punishment’ (P3). The bill fails ‘in toto’ to have a comprehensive policy for water conservation and a participatory approach towards a precious natural resource which strictly belongs to the people.
At an important meeting convened under the banner of People’s Union for Civil Liberty’s (PUCL’s) Prabudh Nagrik Shakti Manch in Ahmedabad recently, it’s Convenor Mr. Suresh Mehta (a former Chief Minister of Gujarat) unequivocally stated that “the bill violates the Constitution and of the right to liberty. It will leave the farmers at the mercy of the Canal Officer...”
Several social activists from across the State feel that this new bill is clearly of a colonial mindset where the rulers think that they can arrogate unquestionable powers to themselves and abrogate the rights of the ordinary citizen. Over the next few weeks, Gujarat is bound to witness several public protests on this bill. Already the PUCL has launched a public awareness campaign and a signature drive requesting the Governor of Gujarat not to sign the bill in the wider interests of the people.
The bill is clearly another anti-people piece of legislation strongly indicating that fascism has come to rule the roost in Gujarat!

*Senior human rights activist

Comments

TRENDING

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam*
RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

RSS supremo Deoras 'supported' Emergency, but Indira, Sanjay Gandhi 'didn't respond'

By Shamsul Islam*
National Emergency was imposed on the country by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on June 25-26, 1975, and it lasted for 19 months. This period is considered as ''dark times' for Indian democratic polity. Indira Gandhi claimed that due to Jaiprakash Narayan's call to the armed forces to disobey the 'illegal' orders of Congress rulers had created a situation of anarchy and there was danger to the existence of Indian Republic so there was no alternative but to impose Emergency under article 352 of the Constitution.

Letter to friends, mentors: Coming together of class, communal, corona viruses 'scary'

By Prof (Dr) Mansee Bal Bhargava*
COVID greetings from Ahmedabad to dear mentors and friends from around the world…
I hope you are keeping well and taking care of yourself besides caring for the people around you. I’m writing to learn how is the science and the society coping with the prevention and cure of the pandemic. I’m also writing to share the state of the corona virus that is further complicated with the long-standing class and communal viruses.

Hurried nod to Western Ghat projects: 16 lakh Goans' water security 'jeopardised'

Counterview Desk
Taking strong exception to "virtual clearances" to eco-sensitive projects in the Western Ghats, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) in a statement has said urged for a review of the four-lane highway, 400 KV transmission line and double tracking of the railway line through the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park in Goa.

Disturbing signal? Reliance 'shifting focus' away from Indian petrochemical sector

By NS Venkataraman*
Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), a large Indian company, has expanded and grown in a spectacular manner during the last few decades, like of which no industrial group in India has performed before. RIL is now involved in multi various activities relating to petroleum refineries, petrochemicals, oil and gas exploration, coal bed methane, life sciences, retail business, communication network, (Jio platform) media/entertainment etc.

Oxfam on WB project: ICT 'ineffective', privatised learning to worsen gender divide

By Rajiv Shah 
A top multinational NGO, with presence in several developed and developing countries, has taken strong exception to the World Bank part-funding Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States (STARS) project in six Indian states – Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha – for its emphasis on information and communication technology (ICT)-enabled approaches for teacher development, student assessment and digital platform for early childhood education.

Case for nationalising India's healthcare system amidst 'strong' private control

Counterview Desk
A draft discussion note, prepared by Dr Maya Valecha, a Gujarat-based gynecologist and activist, sent to the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) as also a large number of activists, academics and professionals as an email alert, is all set to create a flutter among policy experts for its strong insistence on nationalizing India’s healthcare system.

Cruel legacy of Green Revolution? Covid-19 underscores 'risky, fragile' food system

By Moin Qazi*  The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the risks of an unhealthy diet and the extreme fragility of food systems. The economic reconstruction that will follow the pandemic is the perfect opportunity to provide better nutrition and health to all. The pandemic should spur us to redefine how we feed ourselves, and agricultural research can play a vital role in making our food systems more sustainable and resilient.

Coal blocks for tycoons: Rinchi village tribals may be declared forest land encroachers

By Gladson Dungdung*
On June 18, 2020, the Government of India initiated the process for auctioning 41 coal blocks for commercialisation. These coal blocks are located in different states within India and most of them fall under Fifth Schedule areas. The Indian government claims that their decision to auction these coal areas is a big step towards making the country Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant) in the energy sector.