Umesh Dewan, Tribune News Service
Dharmheri (Patiala), December 30. Braving the bone-chilling cold conditions and extremely low visibility on a foggy morning, the inhabitants of sleepy Dharmheri village, one of the most flood-prone villages alongside the Ghaggar on the Patiala-Kaithal state highway, were busy in their daily work, when The Tribune team reached the village. A hot debate over the coming Punjab Assembly elections was on in the village that suffered a lot of devastation during floods in 2010.
When asked about the most important election issue, the villagers, most of them middle-aged, said in unison, “Hansi-Butana canal and the under-construction wall. We have suffered a lot on account of floods and this time, we would not cast our votes to the ruling SAD-BJP combine on account of their utter failure to find any solution to the problem.”
Notably, the matter pertaining to the construction work of the 3.75-km toe-wall, alongside the Hansi-Butana canal embankment, is a burning issue among inhabitants of hundreds of villages, falling in the jurisdiction of the Shutrana, Samana and Ghanaur assembly segments of the Patiala district. Opposing the construction of the wall, SAD-BJP government had approached the Supreme Court but couldn’t get stay on the construction work.
Mohinder Kaur and Shimla Devi, both residents of Sassi Gujaran village, while narrating the tale of woes of the affected villages, said that the SAD ministers and senior leaders had promised to get the matter resolved and hogged media limelight, but nothing had been done to end the woes of the aggrieved villagers.
Because of the floods, villagers not only suffered financial losses on account of crop damage, but their houses developed cracks, cattle died, humans suffered from various health ailments and finding good match for youth became extremely difficult, the duo said.
A visit to nearby villages, including Hassanpur, Sassi Thay, Mangata, Ramnagar, Nawagaon and Sassi Brahmana, brought to light that it was the same story for everyone residing alongside the river Ghaggar. “Before taking any final decision, we will call a meeting of all the flood-prone villages and make a consensus to vote against the present government”, said Avtar Singh, a septuagenarian from Dharmheri village.
Expressing his views, Sukhchain Singh of Haripur village said, “When former Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh kept insisting that the state government should approach the Punjab and Haryana High Court to get a stay on construction of the toe-wall, then why the SAD-BJP government failed to explore that option.”
Officials blame Haryana
Though the Ghaggar, known as the river of sorrow, has been bringing misfortune to several areas in Patiala district in the form of floods from the past more than a decade, but experts in the Punjab Drainage Department are of the view that construction of the Hansi-Butana canal had aggravated the problem.
According to the Punjab Irrigation Department reports after 2010 floods, Haryana started the work to strengthen embankment of the Hansi-Butana canal by constructing a toe-wall. The wall would ensure that there is no breach in the canal, in case Ghaggar river overflows and water from Punjab side hits Hansi-Butana canal. This would though save Haryana, but would leave hundreds of villages of Patiala and Sangrur flooded.