TIKAMGARH, MADHYA PRADESH: : In Madhya Pradesh’s Tikamgarh, a city in the parched Bundelkhand region, men with guns guard precious water of the Jamuniya river at the Bari Ghat Dam.
The armed security guards have been hired by the city’s municipal body to stop farmers from neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, from “stealing” the river’s waters. In the deep drought that has hit the region, the Jamuniya is the only source of drinking water for the over one lakh people of Tikamgarh.
“Farmers from Uttar Pradesh come in the night and try to open the gates of the dam to get water. We stop them. They have tried attacking us but have not been successful. They are scared of guns,” says Bahadur Singh Yadav, who guards the dam armed with a 12 bore rifle.
13 districts – seven in UP and six in Madhya Pradesh – make up the Bundelkhand region. The Jamuniya River which flows from Uttar Pradesh and merges in the Kain River in Madhya Pradesh separates the two states. The drought has turned the tussle over water into a battle of sorts.
As per an agreement between the two states, Madhya Pradesh receives 17 per cent, or 2.5 crore litres, of water stored in the Jamuniya Dam in Uttar Pradesh.
The state stores its share in five dams, including the Bari Ghat. As the drought this year has worsened, water in the four other dams – Harpura, Charpuva, Madiya and Sudan dams – has dried up.
Officials in Madhya Pradesh allege that UP farmers stole water from these dams and so they have dried up sooner than expected. So the close guarding of water at the Bari Ghat Dam.
“We have water left only in the Bari Ghat Dam which has a catchment area of six to seven km and we have a daily requirement of 5 MLD (million litres a day). So to stop farmers from using it for irrigation we have hired two gunmen,” Chief Municipal Officer Tikamgarh Vijay Shankar Trivedi told NDTV.
Farmers from Uttar Pradesh, which is adjacent to the river, allege that they have been assaulted on suspicion of water theft. “Officials from Madhya Pradesh came in big numbers and roughed me up and told me I am stealing water. And then they damaged my water pump,” said UP farmer Bharose Kushwaha.
Madhya Pradesh officials have denied assaulting farmers but admit that they removed pipelines drawing water illegally.