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Yamuna, Farmers and Financial Budgets

By Chetan Saini
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    In the month of July, India's national and local electronic media shifted its camera focus to the Yamuna which recorded rise in water level after the release of excess water from Hathanikund Barrage in the state of Haryana. News reporters and their cameramen were giving live updates from Delhi's Lohapul (the oldest bridge constructed in British India) and even projecting estimate damage to public and private properties from flood. Print media could not fall behind in this race of covering flood; published photographs of farmers and labourers evacuated from flood plains on the front pages of their newspapers. With the fall in water level, media cameras have moved away and the river goes into its former condition of carrying the burden of Delhi's drain and waste. The river lives in dead condition throughout the year except in July and August when the heavy rains in hills of India forced the government agencies to release excess water from dams. Besides, Yamuna does find place in newspapers and news portals when the government announces a plan or when the apex court admonishes government agencies for its pitiable condition.

    Yamuna, Farmers and Financial Budgets

    Enter from Palla village in the north and exist from Badarpur in the south, the Yamuna stretches in nearly 41 Km in Delhi. This long stretch is shown on the city's map as blue and green patch where different varieties of plants and trees are grown. The river is an important source of water in the national capital. Geological studies have identified the river and its adjacent areas as ground water recharge. It has also been providing livelihood for thousands of farmer families who have been engaged in agricultural activities since independence and even before it. Farmers grow fresh fruits and vegetables. There is intrinsic relationship between the river and farmers who keep the embankments clean and green.

    This article is an attempt to highlight Delhi government's negligence towards Yamuna and thousands of families living in its catchment area. It also studies allocation of funds in the last three financial budgets for revival of the river and resettlement plans for thousands of families.

    Budget Allocation for Yamuna, Agriculture, Environment and Rural Development

    In the last three financial years budgets, Delhi government has made substantial allocation to rural development, agriculture services and environment. In the annual plan 2016-17, the government earmarked ₹190 crore for rural development while ₹7 crore were given to agriculture and allied services. In 2017-18, the government clubbed urban and rural villages development allocation and proposed an outlay of ₹600 crore. Although the government ensured the planned development of all sectors by providing them with necessary funds, it did not propose a separate allocation for Yamuna, its farmers and settlers. Barring some projects taken up by civic agencies, the government failed to address issues related to the river. In none of the last three financial years' budgets, Delhi government addressed the issue of farmers resettlement. In the year 2016-17, the government did not allocate any specific amount either for cleaning of the river or resettlement of farmers. However, 'Yamuna Arti' project worth₹600 crore was started in the month of October. In the next year budget speech, some plans were announced to make the Yamuna pollution free by setting up new sewage treatment plants (STPs) on drains falling into the river. To have a clear picture of government plans, proposals, initiatives and programs for Yamuna and people associated with it, given below are the major highlights of the last three budgets with specific reference to Yamuna river -

    1) In the Budget 2015-16 , the budget speech included a project costing around ₹3,656 to treat sewage outflow in Najafgarh and supplementary drains that fall into the river. The project was aimed to rejuvenate Yamuna. It was reiterated to expedite the project for laying of interceptor sewage system along Najafgarh, Supplementary and Shahdara drains

    2) In the Budget 2017-18, the government tabled its plan World Class Ecological Riverfront in 5 km upstream Wazirabad.

    3) The government proposed, in the Budget 2018-19, construction of Kalindi Bypass between Faridabad and DND flyover along Yamuna. New proposal for development of city forest in Bela Farm.

    Allocation of Funds in the Last Three Budgets and Projects

    Financial Year Total Budget Allocation for Yamuna in Budget Proposed Projects on Yamuna in Budget Projects Started
    2016-17 Rs. 46600 crore Not specified No proposed projects Rs. 200 crore Yamuna riverfront –'Yamuna Arti’ (October 2016)
    2017-18 Rs. 48000 crore Not specified
    • Interceptor Sewers and beautification of Yamuna
    • World Class Ecological River Front of 5km at upstream of Wazirabad
    None
    2018-19 Rs. 53000 crore Not specified
    • Construction of Kalindi between DND flyover and Faridabad along Yamuna
    • New Forests to be developed at various places in Delhi, including Bela Farm
    -----

    Impact of Judicial Orders on Yamuna Farmers

    On the one hand the farmers face the brunt of government's negligence and on the other hand, judicial intervention further worsened their condition. In 2015, National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned the cultivation of vegetables, fruits and other crops on the floodplains of Yamuna on the ground that they contain high toxic elements that could lead to diseases like cancer. Some newspaper reports reveal that the contribution of agricultural activities to the dismal state of Yamuna is minimal when compared against unplanned urbanization and discharge of untreated sewages. Earlier governments have violated environmental rules by permitting the construction of Akshardam Temple and Commonwealth Games village. Under such circumstances, the farmers seek comprehensive resettlement policy from the government and alternative source of income.

    (Chetan is an Assistant Professor with the Department of English, Bharati College. He was born and continues to live in an agrarian family in Bela Estate.)

    Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of OneIndia and OneIndia does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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