RAHIM YAR KHAN: Hundreds of farmers from the tail-end areas of Aab-i-Hayyat and 1-L canals on Monday gathered outside the irrigation senior engineer office to protest the ongoing unavailability of irrigation water.
They staged a protest on the arrival of irrigation chief engineer.
Among the leaders present were Pakistan Saraiki Party (Kissan Wing) President Sardar Abdul Qayyum Shakir, numbardars Manzoor Mohsin and Chaudhry Muhammad Afzal.
The protesters said the water scarcity in Aab-e-Hayyat and 1-L canals had resulted in economic crisis and rendered the meadows of Cholistan barren. They urged the government to retrieve these meadows from the contractor and allocate the land to inhabitants instead of favouring corporate farming.
They accused [contractor] Arshad Khan Afghani of seizing vast Cholistan lands, including areas like Toba Soorhian, Bhatta Sheikaan and Islamgarh with the support of influential figures, and stealing water, depriving the farmers with small holdings of irrigation of their lands. They said the the irrigation authorities should stop the theft and ensure the availability of irrigation water for tail-end growers.
They said the inhabitants of Cholistan were deprived of their basic rights for centuries and now their livelihood was being snatched in the name of corporate farming.
They claimed if the government wants to make Pakistan green, the landless shepherds should be allotted these lands because they are associated with this profession and pay taxes to the government against grazing of their cattle in these meadows.
An irrigation department official, requesting anonymity, said there is the problem of illegal water channels at 1-L canal. He said the farmers are protesting for their right and the irrigation department will address their grievances.
Published in Dawn, December 5th, 2023