Haryana Oppn lashes out after BJP govt shelves decades-old Dadupur Nalvi canal project
In reaction to the recent decision of the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government in Haryana to shelve the Dadupur Nalvi canal project three decades after its inception, the Opposition in the state - Congress and Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) - are demanding that the government reverse its decision immediately.
Both parties are accusing the Khattar government of playing a cruel joke on farmers and future generations and are asking why the project is being shelved after more than Rs 300 crore has already been spent on it.
On 27 September, the state government approved a proposal from the Irrigation and Water Resources Department to denotify 1,019.29 acres of land acquired for construction of Dadupur Nalvi Irrigation Scheme.
The scheme had been initiated in year 1985 and the project was approved by the government for Rs 13 crore for irrigation and recharging of ground water in Yamunanagar, Kurukshetra and Ambala districts. For implementing the scheme, 190.67 acre land was acquired between 1987 and 1990. But nothing more was done.
Later in October 2005, the project was again approved by the government for Rs. 267.27 crore for this scheme in which Shahbad feeder, Shahbad distributary and Nalvi distributary along with 23 off taking channels were to be constructed for utilizing 590 cusecs discharge of water.
A total of 2246.53 acres of land was to be acquired and used for the construction of this scheme out of which 1019.29 acres land was acquired at a cost of Rs 75.98 crore as per the award while an additional Rs. 116.35 crore were paid as enhancement as per court orders.
According to the government, till 27 September, Rs 192.33 crore was given to land owners for 1019.29 acres with the department also incurring an expenditure of Rs 111.167 crore for the execution of three channels.
The other channels which were to irrigate 92,532 hectare area of the three districts could not be taken up due to resistance of land owners as farmers were not interested to give their land because water would be available to them only during rainy season when they do not require it. Hence, the government abandoned the execution of these channels.
The Khattar government also claims that even the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) in its annual report for 2011-2012 had expressed reservations over the project.
The land owners whose land was acquired from 2005 onwards were not satisfied with the award of lower courts and had filed cases in the Punjab and Haryana High Court which pronounced a judgment in May 2016 awarding a compensation at the rate of Rs 116.83 lack per acre along with incidental charges. This amounted to an sum of Rs 566.49 crores payable in respect of 167.27 acres of land.
As the Khattar government did not find it feasible to continue working on the project, it has decided to abandon the scheme and denotify the acquired land.
But the decision has not gone down well with the Opposition. Former Congress Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, while calling the Khattar government 'nahar paat sarkar' (canal filling government), questioned why the BJP did not clarify its stand when the farmers were fighting for their compensation in the courts.
“Denotifying the land would mean that a farmer will have to spend Rs 25 lakh to Rs 30 lakh per acre to level his dug up land. The canal was aimed at channeling surplus Yamuna and rain water to the areas that have been declared dark zones by the centre. Above all it was aimed to raise the water table in these areas which has gone down to almost 400 feet. When we had released water in the canal in 2009, it had resulted in this water able going up by around 30 feet,” he said.
On the issue of the large amount of money required to execute the project, he underlined, “The government is not there to make profits. It is there to do work for public welfare.”
Hooda has made it clear that Congress MLAs will not allow the state Assembly to function during he forthcoming session later this month unless the government reverts its decision. He said the Congress will complete this project that is aimed at addressing the concerns of 200 villages once it comes to power.
Meanwhile, the INLD has also launched a programme to take on the Khattar government on this issue.
In a resolution passed by the party at its executive meeting in Yamunanagar, the INLD leadership pointed that mere expenses and profits cannot be made a scale to cancel projects of public welfare particularly those that are aimed at benefiting the farmers. The resolution pointed that while southern Haryana is a declared 'Dark Zone', the northern parts also come under the category of 'Critical Zone'.
It said that if the concerns are not addressed now, not only will the state face a challenge on irrigation, but there will also be no drinking water available.
Senior party leaders Abhay Chautala and Ashok Arora have asked the BJP government in he state to reconsider its decision. The INLD has already embarked on a programme of organising public meetings and protests from 3 October onwards. These leaders have stated that the decision of the government to shelve the Dadupur Nalvi project reflects its 'anti-farmer' mindset.
With the proposed Satluj Yamuna Link (SYL) canal project already hanging fire because of opposition from Punjab with the latter claiming that it has no water to spare for Haryana, the shelving of Dadupur Nalvi project is surely going to put the Khattar government further on the backfoot.