Guj Assembly passes new irrigation bill amid Congress walk-out

The Gujarat Assembly on Wednesday passed the new Irrigation and Drainage Bill 2013 making it mandatory for farmers to get licence to draw underground water exceeding proscribed depths.

Updated: Feb 27, 2013, 21:28 PM IST

Gandhinagar: The Gujarat Assembly on Wednesday passed the new Irrigation and Drainage Bill 2013 making it mandatory for farmers to get licence to draw underground water exceeding proscribed depths and penal action against errant farmers, with a majority voice vote amid opposition Congress staging a walk out in protest.

The Gujarat Irrigation and Drainage Bill, 2013, which was introduced in the State Assembly yesterday seek to replace and repeal the existing Gujarat Irrigation Act 1879.

Today, following the conclusion of discussion on the Bill, State Water Resources Minister Babu Bokhiria put it for vote amid opposition and slogan shouting in the House by the Congress party members.

Protesting Congress members were demanding that the bill be sent to the select committee of the House for review, alleging that bill would give `artificial and arbitrary control` of water for irrigation to the administration.

However, as the Speaker moved ahead with the voting process, the Congress members started shouting slogans, tore copies of the bill and threw it on the floor of the House and staged a walkout, led by leader of Opposition Shankarsinh Vaghela.

Vaghela claimed that the new Bill reflects the same `colonial mindset` like that of the present Act which was introduced by the British in 1879.

The Bill was then passed with majority voice vote in absence of the main Opposition party.

Bokhiria, in his response to the various issues raised by the Opposition members during their speeches, justified the new bill and certain stringent provisions made in it.

"We have just removed provisions of the existing law which were redundant now. The new provisions in the Bill will not harm the farmer, but provide him protection."

"Government has to effectively monitor more than one lakh
kilometres long canal network spread across the state to ensure that the water reaches to far-fetched areas and to the last farmer without hindrance like theft of water or damages to the canal," he added.

The Bill proposes the appointments of canal officers having the rank of Additional Assistant Engineer or above, who has been given wide powers, including the powers to detain the violating farmers, to implement different provisions of the bill.

The new bill prescribes the provisions to monitor the irrigation schemes, water distribution, maintenance of irrigation channels, set up and maintain water-gauges and conduct inquiry and examination wherever there is breach of the proposed provisions of the bill.

There is a provision in the bill which makes it mandatory for a farmer to apply for a licence from the canal officer of his area if he wants to construct a tubewell or borewell or an artesian well, exceeding the depth as prescribed by the government for extracting ground water.

"And only upon grant of licence from the canal officer, he can construct the tubewell or borewell or artesian well," said in the bill.

The Bill also proposes penal action against violating farmers which include imprisonment upto six months or fine to the extent of Rs 10,000.

The Bill further proposes to achieve the objectives by providing for realisation of optimum use of water for irrigation; supplying it on basis of volume and charging for the same on volumetric basis.

It also proposes participation of farmers in the water management by requiring them to form associations for obtaining water for irrigation on volumetric basis.