Amid kisan andolan (farmers’ protest) an alternate people’s movement is taking place on the Sutlej riverbed to save people and crops from floods.

More than 30,000 acres of standing crop got inundated in 2019 in Shahkot, Lohian, Gidderpindi and Sultanpur Lodhi, which caused massive financial loss to farmers. Accumulation of silt at Gidderpindi (bridge) was termed as one of the prime reasons for widespread havoc caused by floods in 2019.

Gidderpindi bridge and kisan andolan

Shahkot and Lohian were among the worst hit pockets due to floods in 2019 and had been most active supporters of kisan morcha

At least 250 tractor-trailers from these flood affected areas and over 2,000 farmers participated in protest at Singhu border. Over 300 to 400 people were still protesting in Delhi. In April, huge jathas from villages would head to Singhu border

More than 1,000 tippers of soil worth Rs50 lakh desilted so far

The task is being performed without any financial assistance from the government. Even NRIs have pitched in with machinery and financial aid

Farmers from the area led by environmentalist Balbir Singh Seechewal started to desilt Gidderpindi bridge, without any financial assistance from the government.

Work on desilting the bridge had begun in September 2020, but was stalled due to rains and farmers’ stir. Now, the work has resumed again, with Seechewal starting second phase of karsewa.

The administration watched as silt deposited under the bridge. First floods wreaked havoc in the area and now, agri laws pushed by the Centre are testing our nerves. Many are yet to recover from losses. Groundwater got polluted due to floods. Earlier, one could find potable water at 30 to 100 ft, but now borewells need to be dug up as deep as 400 ft. Desilting is the first step to prevent floods in future. —Salwinder Singh Jania, District chief, Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee

Seechewal said, “Gidderpindi bridge is instrumental in ensuring smooth flow of river. Earlier, villagers used to desilt it regularly, but stopping the exercise led to collection of silt right up to the level of girders, which caused flooding in 2019. The work on desilting started last year, but was suspended due to unprecedented rains and farmers stir. Now, the work has resumed again. Tippers and earth movers have been pressed into service at Gidderpindi bridge.”

While a bundh was also made on the river last year to strengthen banks and avoid flooding, the environmentalist said, “To strengthen bundhs on the river, there is no shortage of funds with the government, but these funds are never used properly. As a result, people residing along the rivers live under constant fear. Neither grants, nor amenities are provided to people.”

Source: February 21, 2020, The Tribune