The group of Sikh intellectual and ex-servicemen are reported to have said at Chandigarh on March 6, 1983 that Mrs. Gandhi gave her awards unilaterally in 1971 and 1981 on the water issues disregarding Punjab’s interests. She even violated the provisions of the Constitution and kept her personal prestige above the interests of the country and Punjab.

Let us examine the matter in greater detail. For 100 percent intensity of cropping Punjab needs 25.361 M.A.F. of water, for 150 percent intensity 38.042 MAF and for 200 percent of intensity of cropping 50.722 million acre feet of water.

The three rivers can supply 51.792 MAF of water, so that Punjab cannot spare any water for the no riparian states and it is not correct to state that Punjab’s share of water belongs to the category of interstate disputes.

 There are four main reasons why Punjab needs more canal water for agriculture. Firstly, in 198081, the percentage of area irrigated by canals to the net area shown was only 34.1 percent so that the remaining 66 percent of the area is being starved of this facility notwithstanding the fact that Punjab is a riparian state Secondly, even after making allowance for the tube well irrigation, an area of about 20 percent still remains un irrigated in Punjab. Thirdly, with the evolution of short duration varieties of cotton, wheat and paddy, Punjab can easily increase the intensity of cropping to 200 percent provided more water is available. Fourthly, there is urgent need to divert area under tube well irrigation to canal irrigation partly because of limited availability of ground water but mainly because of the costs involved as we shall presently see.

There are over 6 lakh tube wells in Punjab and an area of about 20 lakh hectors is being irrigated by these which works out to about 8 acres per tube well on the average. The crop of wheat requires 4 irrigation maize 5, padding 24 and sugarcane 10 so that on an average on adhoc basis 10.75 irrigations are required per crop. There is a difference of about four rupees per irrigation in favor of canal water so far as costs are involved (Rs.22/—Rs 18;) so that for 4800,000 acres at the rate of Rs. 4; per acre and for 10 irrigations per crop, the Punjab farmer has to bear an extra burden of Rs.19.20 crores or say about 20 crores of rupees annually. With 200 percent intensity of roping this can easily rise to 40 crores and with recent increase in the rate of power for irrigation from Rs.65/to Rs.85/pm in Punjab at flat rate for the supply of power to the tube wells, this can easily raise to about 50 crores of rupees. With thousands of applications for power for tube wells pending with the Punjab State Electricity Board (1.53 lakhs and out of these 46000 pending since 197879), the incidence will rise still further so that the Punjab Farmer is being bled white.

If we apportion the total area under different crops in accordance with the existing cropping pattern in Punjab and work out separately the difference in terms of money value of costs in the two systems of irrigation involved, a similar result is obtained.

Punjab has rightly been the granary of India and has raised the prestige of the country in the eyes of the world by taking it on the road to self-sufficiency in food. Its economy must be saved and full justice done to it in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution which have been flouted.

In a couple of subsequent communications I Propose to deal with other aspects of the problem and suggest a radical approach in the national interest which would satisfy all the parties concerned, provided the matter is viewed in a spirit of give and take. (To be continued)



Article extracted from this publication >>  February 15, 1985