With a week to go for the Rajasthan Assembly polls, farmers in Sri Ganganagar feel that the uneven distribution of water via the Ganga canal is one of the most important issues that will impact the voting process in the desert state.
Alleging that the Congress government in Rajasthan and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) regime in Punjab are indulging in a blame game over the issue, the farmers accused political leaders of depriving them of their share of water and charged that the flow of water from the Punjab water resources department is diverted towards Pakistan.
"The canal system that we have was introduced in 1927 and it was considered to be one of the first canals in the world to distribute water. As regimes kept changing, the Ganga canal was reconstructed and a lot of corruption happened there. When the canal was constructed by Maharaja Ganga Singh here, the water distribution was equal for both states but now, it has become uneven," Ranjeet Singh Raju of the Gramin Kisan Majdoor Samiti, Rajasthan told PTI.
Raju said the farmers of Ganganagar and adjoining areas have been facing a problem due to a shortage of irrigation water and that the existing supply is full of harmful chemicals.
"There is corruption in the process of releasing water from Punjab. This is something that is not being monitored. The canal is also being closed from time to time and there is a major trouble in the water supply for the farmers here. We demand that the governments should monitor and ensure even distribution to all states," he said.
In September, more than 10,000 farmers from Ganganagar held protests demanding the release of their share of water. The protesting farmers had blocked the main highway for three days, gheraoed the district collector's office for three more days and also blocked five entries to Ganaganagar city.
As campaigning for the November 25 Assembly polls is underway in full swing, the Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and independent candidates from Ganganagar have assured the farmers that their problem of water share via the Ganga canal will be taken care of.
Vikramjeet Singh, a farmer, said farmers are supposed to receive 2,500 cusecs of water a day from the Ganga canal and demanded that the next government in the state should resolve the issue.
"We farmers here do not get the share of water that we deserve. We have hit the streets many times. Getting an equal share of the water is our right. We are supposed to receive around 2,500 cusecs of water a day from the Ganga Canal but our quota of water is diverted towards Pakistan. We have put forth our demands to the city administration several times and want the next government to resolve this issue," Singh told PTI.
The farmers have been protesting here since 2016, Gramin Kisan Majdoor Samiti spokesperson Galaxy Brar said.
"The farmers have been protesting since 2016. Governments changed, but whether it is the BJP or the Congress -- nobody paid attention to this issue. Punjab and Rajasthan have been playing a blame game and then they blame the Centre together," Brar alleged.
BJP candidate from the Ganganagar constituency Jaideep Bihani said the saffron party has been raising the issue for the last five years, adding that he will prioritise the matter if the party is voted to power.
"Not just irregular supply, Punjab releases chemical waste in the Ganga canal. Ganaganagar has turned into a cancer city because of this. This is a huge crime against the humanity. We have been raising this issue for five years now," Bihani said.
The farmers said Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his Punjab counterpart, Bhagwant Mann, had visited them and promised to put an end to the issue.
Congress leader from Ganganagar Naresh Sethia said the problem has created a rift between Rajasthan and Punjab and the party's candidate in the upcoming polls, Ankur Manglani, will work on it if elected to the Assembly.
"The water of the Ganga canal is very harmful and has even been causing cancer. This issue has created a rift between Rajasthan and Punjab. There should be an end to releasing chemical waste in the canal. Action should be taken on this matter. Our candidate, Ankur Manglani, will work on it if elected to the Assembly," Sethia said.
Karuna Ashok Chandak, an Independent candidate who has a formidable following in the area, vowed to take up the issue with the Punjab government if elected as an MLA.
The 200-member Rajasthan Assembly will go to polls on November 25 and the counting of votes will be taken up on December 3.