Dammed fortunes: govt looks away as farmers are forced to sell land | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Dammed fortunes: govt looks away as farmers are forced to sell land

Hindustan Times | By, Omkareshwar
Oct 12, 2013 02:40 PM IST

Dam meant to bring succour to farmers is turning into a curse. Canals run through farms and obstruct drainage, making them unfit for cultivation.

Omkareshwar-Mandhata (Khandwa district): Ramlal Yadav of Kothi village has not grown kharif crops on his 24-acre farmland for the last three years. The canals of the Omkareshwar dam project pass through the farms of the area, obstructing drainage, leading to waterlogging and making it unfit for cultivation in the rainy season. The fact that the rains were heavy this year made things worse.

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HT Image

This is bad news for the Omkare–shwar-Mandhata region, where agriculture is the main source of livelihood of the people most of whom are middle-rung cultivators. For people such as Ramlal, growing only rabi or winter crops means foregoing a chunk of his income. But in the absence of any attempt by the Madhya Pradesh government to address the problem, they have no choice but to sell their fertile lands, known for production of wheat, soybean, cotton, gram and chillies, and move on.

What makes the whole situation so puzzling is that not only does it go against the chief minister’s pro-farmer stance, also, the continued indifference to the woes of farmers — 185,000 voters spread over 225 villages — defies logic and looks like political suicide in the poll season.

PROFIT OVER PEOPLE

In 2008 when Shivraj Singh Chouhan returned to power he pledged: “Kheti ko labh ka dhanda banana hai (We have to convert agriculture into a profitable proposition).” In 2011-12, MP

recorded 18.91% growth in agriculture, the highest in the country. But obviously, working for agricultural growth is one thing and addressing the welfare of small-time agriculturists is quite another.

Built on the Narmada river in western MP’s Khandwa district, the Omkareshwar dam project, a joint venture of the central and state governments, was conceived way before Chouhan in 1965.

It was completed between 2004 and 2006, during BJP rule. And according to official figures, 529 villages of Khandwa and its neighbouring Khargone and Dhar districts benefited from it. But once the dam was complete, complaints about waterlogging started pouring in.

And this is no one-off. The Yashwant Sagar tank is built on the Gambhir river on Indore’s outskirts. In 2011, the Indore Municipal Corporation augmented its capacity, which raised water levels and inundated adjoining farm lands, most of which is in the Depalpur tehsil of Indore district.

In April, about 150 farmers complained to Indore mayor Krishna Murari Moghe, saying they could not grow crops as their fields lay under water. But nothing has been done to date.

MUFFLED PROTESTS

Small-time farmers are angry that neither the administration nor politicians pay heed to their problem. Mandhata MLA (BJP) Lokendra Singh Tomar admits that he has received complaints of waterlogging from some farmers, but he prefers to focus on farmers who are “happy with the project as they get water for irrigation”.

Khandwa MP Arun Yadav (Congress) is aware of the farmers’ problems. “The construction quality of Omkareshwar canals is bad. I agree with what farmers are saying. We took up the matter with the local administration, which says it will complain to the contractor. But things stand there.”

Political observers say people are complacent because the farmers are poor and can be bought off with new promises and assurances and a little bit of money.

“The sad part is that builders, businessmen and industrialists, people who have nothing to do with agriculture, will purchase these lands,” said Yadav. “They will keep it barren for years, which will be a setback to agriculture.”

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