Hisar (Haryana)/New Delhi: While Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues bolstering his muscular nationalistic narrative in election rallies in Haryana, several villages located along the Rajasthan border in Hisar’s Adampur and the Nalwa Assembly segments are faced with extreme shortage of water. The residents here complain that they live in Haryana, but have to depend on water from the neighbouring state.
They say that they have to spend money on tankers to fulfil their basic necessity. They had boycotted the 2014 Assembly polls in the state. Not a single vote was cast in Burak village of the constituency, as voters were angry with the ignorance of political parties. The villagers in the region alleged that they did not get any relief even after staging prolonged agitation under the banner of the Jal Sangharsh Samiti in 2017-18.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered a bizarre solution to their long-standing problem. Addressing rallies in nearby Kurukshetra and Charkhi Dadri on October 15, Modi asserted that he would stop water flowing to Pakistan and divert it to Haryana, as it rightfully belongs to the country and the farmers of the state.
“The water that belonged to the farmers of Haryana flowed to Pakistan for the past 70 years. Modi will stop that water and bring it to your house,” he said, implying that the Indus Water treaty between India and Pakistan is unjust.
Unimpressed with the PM’s bolstering of muscular nationalistic narrative, the residents here said that the BJP failed to address the issue in the past five years. “We don’t have drinking water. We have to shell out money on tankers to get water from Sidhmukh canal. Since each village has two-three tankers, our turn comes after over a week. Each tanker, which carries around 5,000 litres of water, costs us Rs 1,000. We store the water in underground reservoirs we have built in our homes to use it for the next one week or beyond till our turn to get water comes again,” said Ved Prakash, a farmer residing in Adampur’s Kajla village in Hisar district, while speaking to NewsClick.
Making fun of Modi’s promise, he said that the BJP has been ruling the Centre and the state for the past five years, but never bothered to solve the problem. “They have suddenly come out of slumber in the election season. This is nothing more than another jumla (hollow promise),” he added.
The Bhakra-Beas water is diverted to Sidhmukh canal under the Sidhmukh Nohar Project in Rajasthan in accordance with the agreements between the partner states and the Government of India. The canal is located at Bhirani village in Rajasthan.
The state’s Waterworks Department supplies water to Adampur villages for just one week in a month from Bhakra river. Earlier, it was for 15 days in a month. The Bhakra water is brought to the villages by their waterworks pipelines and stored in reservoirs. It is filtered and supplied to each household for a week once every month.
Asked if the problem has arisen in the past five years, Chena Ram, another resident of the village, said, “No, it was there during the Congress government’s tenure as well, but not so severe. We used to get water for at least 20 days a month during that period.”
The situation in Burak village is even worse. “The village has waterworks pipelines, but they are lying dry. Like big cities, we have to spend Rs 700-Rs 1,000 on water tankers to get 5,000 litres of water which lasts for a week or 10 days at max,” said Satbir Singh.
Chandvir Balmiki, ex-member of the Block Samiti, explained that this issue can be traced back till 1996. “There was no such problem during former Chief Minister Bhajan Lal’s tenure, which was spread over 11 years, 9 months and 26 days. After that, we became victims of the regional politics. Ex-CM Om Prakash Chautala worked only for his constituencies—Nirvana and Sirsa.”
Similarly, he said, former CM Bansi Lal’s works were largely meant for his constituency Bhiwani. “His 2.5-year government did not even perform well. Ex-Chief Minister Bhupendra Hooda paid attention to Rohtak. And Khattar (the serving chief minister of the state) worked for Karnal from where he got elected in the last Assembly election,” he alleged.
He, along with the other residents of the village, asserted that the problem will be solved if all the villages get their due share of water. “Balsamand Branch of the Sidhmukh canal, which supplies water to Adampur for a week in a month, also supplies water to Nalva Assembly constituency. If the supply is increased to two weeks in a month, there will be no shortage of water. The problem is not so huge as it is being projected. It requires government’s attention and will power to be resolved,” he added.
The water shortage not only impacts people’s daily needs, but also their farm activities. Kajla resident Ram Kunwar said that even though the region is a fertile belt, farmers here mainly grow cotton, mustard and wheat as they consume less water. “We largely have to depend on rain water—which is not available round the year—for irrigation. The water we get is insufficient to meet the household requirements, how can we think of using it for irrigation? The groundwater is saline and not good for crops. However, we are left with no option but to use it for irrigation. That too is costly as the electricity rate is high and we don’t get regular power supply as well. All these issues adversely affect our agricultural produce. The government in the state has done nothing, except lip service,” he complained.
The issue of water shortage in several villages located along the Rajasthan border in Hisar’s Adampur and Nalwa Assembly segments has gained momentum with newly elected Hisar MP Brijendra Singh taking up the demand for the inclusion of the region in the Centre’s irrigation scheme in the Lok Sabha.
Singh, in his debut speech in Lok Sabha, had admitted that the region is suffering from severe shortage of water. He had said that about 100 villages of the Hisar Lok Sabha constituency had been facing water shortage. He said that about 20 villages in the Nalwa and Adampur segments were worst hit by the shortage of irrigation and potable water.
He demanded inclusion of these villages in the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY), stating that 29 villages of the region were included in the Integrated Water Management Programme (IWMP), which had been merged with the PMKSY.
Residents of Burak, Bachra, Gawar, Sasrana, Sundawas, Balsam, Bandaheri, among others had once again staged a 44-day sit-in from January to February last year for increasing the canal water supply. After the intervention of Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, a committee—comprising representatives of the Jal Sangharsh Samiti, district administration and the BJP leaders—was formed to resolve the problem. But there had been hardly any improvement in the water situation in these villages.
“The committee held several meetings to find a solution and we were assured that three canals—Balsamand branch, Barwala branch and New Siwani feeder—would be remodelled to improve the capacity to fetch more water to villages. The CM also assured that the problem would be solved in six months, but nothing happened so far. We are still forced to purchase water from tankers,” Kurda Ram Nambardar, pradhan of the Jal Sangharsh Samiti, told NewsClick.
All eyes are now on Adampur as the BJP has fielded Sonali Phogat against the three-time Congress MLA Kuldeep Bishnoi, younger son of late Bhajan Lal. Lal represented the seat eight times in the Assembly.
While 15 candidates are contesting from this Jat-dominated constituency that has a voter strength of over 1.60 lakh, the main contest is seen between Phogat and 51-year-old Bishnoi.
Now, it’s for people to decide whether they go with the Congress-led family bastion or shift their loyalties to the saffron party. Haryana is going to polls on October 21 and the counting of votes will take place on October 24.
Also read: Haryana Polls: How Angry Roadways Workers Are Putting BJP in Tight Spot