Skip to main content

Narmada project's heavy toll: Canal network breached at 22 spots; shoddy release destroys 450 salt cultivators

A breach in the Narmada canal
By Our Representative
Livelihood of as many as 450 salt-cultivating farmers of the Little Rann of Kutch has been gravely hampered following a “roughshod decision” of Gujarat government officials to release water from Narmada canal --more than its carrying capacity, leading to major breaches -- into Banas river in North Gujarat. Well-informed sources have told Counterview, the the salt cultivating fields got “totally destroyed”, their diesel pumps used for sucking out saline water from underground got “burned-out”, and the temporary shelters they had put up to look after the farms “simply fell apart”, as Narmada waters entered the Little Rann.
Estimating the loss to salt cultivators anywhere between Rs 3 crore to Rs 5 crore, most of it taken as loan, a senior government official said, “One should blame past managers of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL), responsible for implementing the Narmada project, for failure to create a network of branch canals and distributaries in the region to help agriculturists off the Little Rann to get water straight into their fields. Had the network been completed, the waters would have gone to the fields instead of running over the Little Rann and harming salt cultivators. Further, officials should have known it well – Banas river ends in the Little Rann. Hence, they should not have released as much water.”
The sources further blamed poor official monitoring in the past while constructing the canals for the latest catastrophe that has befallen the salt cultivators. “What is worse, whatever canal network has been created is so poor that within over a month's time, it breached at 22 spots, allowing waters to easily make way without any restriction for days together, with nobody caring to stop it. Some of the breaches were as wide as 24 feet, such as at at a spot near Tharad town. Another breach was also quite wide – of 14 feet – near Sui village”, the sources pointed out.
Other major breaches in the Narmada canal network reported were – near Dhima and Bhakhri village (November 9), in Sapreda-Rachchela minor canal (November 14), near Khiman Padar village (November 19), in Tharad's Bharol distributary (November 20), Vav-Jodiya distributary (November 25 – the breach took place thrice), and Tharad-Upcha distributary (November 27). This apart, there were at least a dozen other minor breaches, all thanks to “poor quality of work done while lining up the canals”, the sources insisted.
Senior activist of the Agariya Hit Rakshak Manch (AHRM) Harinesh Pandya, who has been working among salt cultivators for nearly a decade, told Counterview that while some of them could make their way out of the Rann area which had turned marshy, there were serious casualties. “In the middle of last month, a pregnant woman tried to come out of the flooded area, and in between got unconscious. She was brought to hospital, where she delivered a baby girl, but she died. The officialdom seems indifferent”, he said.
Pandya said the officials he talked with were “so casual” that they seemed to have little compassion for the salt cultivators. “The general view is that Narmada waters should be released in order to help agricultural fields by allowing farmers to illegally sink diesel pumps to suck out water straight from the canal, as distributaries are incomplete. Waters are siphoned away by putting up pipelines, often more than one km long, to take waters in the fields. The waters are released in such huge quantity to 'help' farmers that it leads to breaches in the canal, on one hand, flooding the Little Rann, on the other”, Pandya said.
In fact, according to Pandya, the locals whom he talked to complained, officials “take a bribe of Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 per diesel pump” from farmers in order to allow the waters to be pumped out illegally from the canal. “There is also the view that the the local BJP MLA, Shankar Choudhury, knows that farmers are his votebank, while the salt farmers are not. The joke is – whom will Choudhury help? Nearly 5,000 agriculturists or 500 salt cultivators? After all, salt cultivators are mostly Muslims, and they are not his votebank, hence why should he help them?”, asked the activist.

Comments

TRENDING

Ganga world's second most polluted river, Modi's Varanasi tops microplastics pollution

By Rajiv Shah  Will the new report by well-known elite NGO Toxics Link create a ripple in the powerful corridors of Delhi? Titled “Quantitative analysis of microplastics along River Ganga”, forwarded to Counterview, doesn’t just say that Ganga is the second most polluted river in the world, next only to Yangtze (China). It goes ahead to do a comparison of microplastics pollution in three cities shows Varanasi – the Lok Sabha constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi – is more polluted compared to Kanpur and Haridwar.

How real is Mamata challenge to Modi? Preparing for 2024 'khela hobey' moment

By Prof Ujjwal K Chowdhury*  Third time elected West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee is on a whirlwind tour of Delhi, meeting everyone who matters within and beyond the government, the Prime Minister, the President, some Cabinet ministers, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, several other opposition leaders, et al.

Did Modi promote Dholavira, a UNESCO site now, as Gujarat CM? Facts don't tally

By Rajiv Shah  As would generally happen, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tweet – that not only was he “absolutely delighted” with the news of UNESCO tag to Dholavira, but he “ first visited ” the site during his “student days and was mesmerised by the place” – is being doubted by his detractors. None of the two tweets, strangely, even recalls once that it’s a Harappan site in Gujarat.

Madhya Pradesh tops India's 145 instances of 'anti-Christian atrocities' this year

Counterview Desk  A report prepared by the Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), founded in 1951 as the national alliance of evangelical Christians of the Protestant denomination, in its just-released report, “Hate and Targeted Violence against Christians in India: Half Yearly Report 2021”, has said that an analysis of 145 cases of violence it has documented against Christians, mainly by non-state actors, “stems from an environment of targeted hate.”

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

UP arrest of 'terrorists': Diverting attention from Covid goof-up, Ram temple land scam?

By Advocate Mohammad Shoaib, Sandeep Pandey* That corruption is rampant in police department is a common experience. However, there is another form of corruption which devastates lives of individuals and their families. It has now emerged as a common phenomenon that police more often than not register false cases because of which individuals have to spend number of years in jail.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Demolition drive: Why aren't high-end hotels, farmhouses treated same way as Khorigaon?

By Our Representative A public hearing, sponsored by the civil rights group National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) to hear the affected citizens of Khorigaon, off Faridabad, Delhi NCR, has seen local people complaining how their houses are being demolished even as the entire area was converted into a prison through heavy police deployment.

How BSF, police, court turned Bangladeshi woman slave victim into accused in crime

Counterview Desk  Civil rights leader Kirity Roy has strongly objected to the manner in which the Border Security Force (BSF) , the police and the judiciary in West Bengal have treated a 35 years old Bangladeshi woman victim of human trafficking, who was subjected to sexual exploitation for 15 long years, has been declared guilty of violating the Foreigners Act, violating all human rights norms.

If not Modi, then who? Why? I (an ordinary citizen) am there! Main hoon naa!

By Mansee Bal Bhargava*  The number of women ministers is doubled in early July from the first term after cabinet reshuffle by the present government led by Narendra Modi. While there were 06 women ministers in the previous term, this term there are 11. The previous two governments led by Dr Manmohan Singh had 10 women ministers in each tenure. Are these number of women ministers something to rejoice in the near 75 years of independence? Yes maybe, if we think that things are slowly improving in the patriarchal system. This change is less likely to achieve gender balance in the parliament otherwise we require more than 11 as per the 33% reservation . This change is also less likely because the men politicians’ inability to handle the country’s mess is becoming more and more evident and especially during the corona crisis. Seems, the addition of more women ministers may be a result of the recent assembly elections where women played a decisive role in the election results. For example