Even as India and Bhutan continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, Bhutan has ensured that the farmers of Assam do not face any additional challenges. The Himalayan Kingdom has ensured that the district of Baksa in Assam continues to receive irrigation water through this period.
The COVID-19 Task Force in Jomotshangkha block cleared a recent blockage and mended the irrigation channel to ensure uninterrupted irrigation water supply to the neighbouring villages in India during the paddy cultivation season.
It may be noted that the Jomotshangkha block in Samdrup Jongkhar district bordering Assam state has been under lockdown since May 21 since the region continues to record COVID-19 positive cases.
This step taken by Bhutan is also important since last year, sections of Indian media had reported that Bhutan had allegedly stopped releasing water for Indian farmers along the border in the Baksa and Udalguri districts of Assam. Bhutan rejected the media reports. In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Royal Government of Bhutan, June last year said “This is a distressing allegation and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would like to clarify that the news articles are totally baseless as there is no reason why the flow of water should be stopped at this time.” The foreign minister Dr Tandi Dorji had said, “It is a deliberate attempt by vested interests to spread misinformation and cause misunderstanding between the friendly people of Bhutan and Assam.”
Over 6,000 farmers hailing from more than 26 revenue villages of the district depend on a man-made irrigation channel (locally called ‘dong’) to carry water to a huge chunk of paddy fields on the Indian side of the district from Bhutan since 1953.