Agitated farmers blocking the highway in Assam's Baksa district on Monday Credit: EastMojo image

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Baksa: When the entire nation was busy in discussing about violent stand-off between Indian and Chinese soldiers in eastern Ladakh and Nepal’s recent aggressive posture against India, another neighbouring country, Bhutan, allegedly has stopped releasing channel water for Indian farmers along the border in Baksa district of Assam.

Over 6,000 farmers hailing from more than 26 revenue villages of the district were dependent on a man-made irrigation channel (locally called as ‘dong’) to carry water to a huge chunk of paddy fields on the Indian side of the district from Bhutan since 1953.

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Farmers demand water for their paddy fields

However, due to the alleged sudden closure of the irrigation channel without citing any reason, the Indian farmers have created massive resentment in the entire district.

Meanwhile, farmers along with other civil society members of Baksa district of the state in large numbers staged a demonstration on Monday and expressed serious concern over the alleged decision of Bhutanese government not to release channel water to Indian farmers for irrigation purposes.

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Farmers during the agitation

Expressing their gratitude for releasing water for irrigation purposes over the decades, the demonstrators also demanded the Central government to take up the issue with their Bhutan counterpart and find a solution keeping the greater interest of the farmers in the district in mind.

Hundreds of farmers of Baksa district under the banner of Kalipur-Bogajuli-Kalanadi Anchalik Dong Bandh Samiti took part in the demonstration and demanded the Bhutan government to release the required water as farmers from these villages are surviving on water released by Bhutan government for the last almost seven decades for their agriculture purposes.

Agitating farmers blocked the highway at Baksa

“Like the previous years, this year too we have started our process in our respective paddy fields. But surprisingly, we have realised that Bhutan has stopped releasing the channelize water. This will be a disaster for all of us,” Naroram Narzary, a farmer who took part in the demonstration, said.

Elaborating on the problem, Sewali Borgiary, one the members of the Samiti, said that during this time of every year farmers of the locality enter Samdrup Jongkhar along the Indo-Bhutan border here and channelize the irrigation channel to carry water of Kalanadi river to the paddy fields of the Indian side of the district.

But this year, due to the COVID-19, the authorities in Bhutan government have allegedly refused the entry of Indian farmers to channelize the ‘dong’ to carry water.

“Because of this, for the last five days the dong has not been able to carry water to the paddy fields. We need water. Otherwise, we won’t hesitate to intensify our agitation in days to come. COVID-19 is a separate issue and stopping an almost 70-year-old system is a different issue. By maintaining all international protocols regarding the COVID-19, we can channelize the dong for the benefit of the Indian farmers. The Bhutan government can’t do this citing some invalid reasons,” Borgiary alleged.

Urging the state government to take up the issue with the Bhutan government, the farmers in the district have also demanded the state government to take adequate measures so that nobody can divert or disrupt flow of water to paddy fields of farmers in days to come.

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Government clarifies

Meanwhile, almost a day after publishing the news, Assam chief secretary Kumar Sanjay Krishna in his Twitter said, ” Recent media reports about Bhutan blocking water supply to India has been incorrectly reported. The actual reason being the natural blockage of informal irrigation channels into Indian fields! Bhutan has been actually helping to clear the blockage.”

PIB in Assam in its Twitter also said, “Claim: Bhutan blocks water supply to India.

#PIBFactCheck: Not true. This is a natural blockage of informal irrigation channels in to Indian fields. #Assam Chief Secretary

@KrSanjayKrishna informed that Bhutan has been actually helping to clear the blockage.

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