The Bill also seeks to charge farmers for irrigation water reaching any cultivated land within 200 metres of a canal either by percolation or leakage, surface flow or by means of a well-sunk from the canal.
The Irrigation and Drainage Bill 2013, tabled by Water Resources Minister Babu Bokhiria, seeks to replace the existing Gujarat Irrigation Act, 1879.
The new Bill has proposed appointment of canal officers with minimum rank of additional assistant engineers who would have wide powers, including the power to detain the erring farmers.
The new Bill prescribes provisions to monitor irrigation schemes, water distribution, maintenance of irrigation channels, set up and maintain water-gauges and conduct inquiry in cases of violations of the Bill’s provisions.
The Bill 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 for extracting ground water if it is exceeding the depth of 45 metres as prescribed by the government. The Bill also intends to cover existing bores on any agricultural land.
“And only upon grant of licence from the canal officer can he construct a tubewell or borewell or artesian well,” the Bill says.
The Bill also proposes penal action against the errant farmers, which includes imprisonment up to six months or fine up to Rs 10,000.
The new Bill triggered strong objections from the opposition Congress and Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP), which termed it as “anti-farmers” and demanded its review by a select committee of the House.
Congress Legislature Party leader Shankarsinh Vaghela said his party would take the issue to the farmers after the Assembly session.
Congress MLA Paresh Dhanani described the new Bill as “the blackest law since the inception of the state of Gujarat”. A similar remark made by GPP chief Keshubhai Patel was later removed from the record.
Congress chief whip Balvantsinh Rajput said the Bill would create an atmosphere of terror among farmers since irrigation officials would get “unbridled magisterial powers”. He said this could even lead to a spurt in the number of suicides and increase in corruption.
Keshubhai Patel suggested setting up of a select committee to review the Bill. “In its present form, it is an attack on the rights of farmers and there is nothing innovative in it,” he said.
Bill that kills?
n Farmers need a licence to draw water from canal or ground well beyond a limit
n Face six-month jail term or Rs 10,000 fine for violations
n Farmers having their land near a canal to pay for its water even if it reaches them by leakage
n ‘Canal officers’ on the loose can detain ‘erring’ farmers
House clears Bill replacing ‘Bombay’ with ‘Gujarat’
The Gujarat Short Titles (Amendment) Amending Bill 2013 was passed unanimously in the state Assembly on Tuesday.
Presented by Law Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasma, the Bill seeks to replace word “Bombay” from Bombay Public Trust Act, 1960, with “Gujarat” and call it Gujarat Public Trust Act, 1960. Gujarat was formed on May 1, 1960, as a result of bifurcation of state of Bombay into states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. By section 3 of the Gujarat Adaptation of Laws Order 1960, the Bombay Public Trust Act 1960 in force in the state of Bombay was continued in Gujarat.