Interview: “There are several villages submerged under 15 feet of water”
In an interview with Gaon Connection, Tejveer Singh, a spokesperson of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Shaheed Bhagat Singh), talked about the extent of flooding in rural areas of Haryana and the hardships faced by the villagers and farmers. Excerpts.
Brijendra Dubey 20 July 2023 1:43 PM GMT
Chourmastpur (Ambala), Haryana
GC: What is the extent of damage due to the recent floods?
Singh: In Haryana, around seven districts are severely affected by the floods, more than five lakh (500,000) acres of land has been completely destroyed. If we only talk about Ambala district, around 100 villages are still submerged. From farmlands, houses, to cattle, the loss is on multiple fronts for farmers in the state.
GC: When did the flooding begin?
Singh: There are two ways as to how the flooding began here — one is because of incessant rainfall for three days due to which the rivers and the dams were flowing beyond their capacity.
The rainfall on July 11 was most severe due to which the water levels escalated in the dams and rivers. The government is not able to help us with anything, the roads are flooded with water and there is no proper drainage system through which the water could pass. The rail traffic is also affected as their tracks are submerged at various locations.
Right behind us is the Sutlej Yamuna Link canal in which there are no drainage pipes due to which the water was blocked and hence the canal got flooded and water entered the villages.
These floods have made the loopholes in administration evident and even the markets got submerged. The urban localities also do not have proper drainage systems. Small business owners have been affected, the colonies and houses have been submerged due to the floods. The common people are bearing the brunt of it.
GC: We heard that there is a Tahra village which has been submerged in 12 feet of water…
Singh: There are several villages which have been submerged under water as deep as 15 feet such as Sekha, Jugna Mugna, and Mansa. This same flood water has also reached Rajasthan's Hanumangarh, Ganganagar, and also in areas around Tarn Taran and the administration is in shambles.
GC: What kind of aid did the government provide to the people who have been affected by the floods here?
Singh: The government hasn’t declared the floods as a disaster [in our area], all they provide is fake assurance to us. Various diseases could spread due to dead animals lying and rotting on the road. Even a lot of stray animals have died. The government is occupied with meetings and god knows when will they get free to listen to their people, look into their issues and solve them.
GC: What would you say about the soil that got washed away and the crops that got buried by the flood?
Singh: When the flood hit the villages, the soil got washed away and so this time the paddy cannot be planted, they can only plant wheat crops.
After the Ukraine war, the world is going through a terrible food crisis and the government is not serious about it. The common people are suffering from inflation. Now see the prices of tomatoes, if such is the case with tomatoes what will happen to wheat and rice. The common people have to bear the brunt of inflation, our government doesn't think about it at all.
GC: Do you have any demand from the government?
Singh: Do you think that the government will provide us with aid other than giving us false hopes and assurance? Firstly, they didn’t give us compensation for paddy and wheat fields. We took the MSP [minimum support price] for maize by getting beaten up by sticks.
Our demands are from the Central government that they should immediately send us relief material, some aid packages for the people who have had to bear the brunt of the catastrophic flood, farmers should be compensated with decent amounts, they should be compensated for the destruction of their storage rooms which got destroyed in the floods.
At least declare this catastrophe as a disaster. The small farmers should be supported in such a way that they should be compensated for their crop and animal losses. The sewage system should be repaired along with the houses that have got fresh cracks due to the flood water.
The power supply is also not working, people have lost all their belongings, the refrigerators, televisions, beds and even the mattresses are not there.
We demand that Rs 1,000,000 should be given to the houses where people have died and a government job should be made available as compensation. Meanwhile, if the government doesn't accept our demands then we will keep on with our struggle.
GC: We went to see what damage has been caused by the silt which is there in the fields due to floods. What do you think, how could it be removed?
Singh: The government says that it doesn’t do mining so it can’t help us with removing silt from the drainage. For your information, these villages along the Sakraha ghat, Khaspara and Naggarare were declared for the use of IMT (Industrial Model Townships) and that is why the government is not declaring it as a flood-stricken area. If they declare it as a flood affected area then how will IMT happen?
Where the township is supposed to set up, they have no solution to solve the problem of water logging. What they actually want is that the farmers should sell their lands at low prices because there is water logging in their lands and they will be left with no option other than selling it to the government.
GC: The government said that they will compensate, what do you want to say on this?
Singh: We don't have any hopes from the government as they know that there has been flood since July 13 but till now the government has not declared this area as flood-hit and the matter of compensating the farmers is a faraway dream.
Compensations are declared by the government but it is unknown how much money people would actually receive. Now they are saying they have opened a portal but we are unable to understand when they can use the drone facility to check where the fields are on fire then why can’t they use it to see the flood hit areas and provide us help accordingly.