Water woes in Chidambaram’s Sivaganga constituency

March 12th, 2009 - 6:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Sivaganga (Tamil Nadu), March 12 (IANS) During the four-and-half years that Home Minister P. Chidamabaram held the finance portfolio, 52 bank branches were opened in his constituency Sivaganga and began lending money for agricultural operations. But farmers in this Tamil Nadu region are unhappy. They claim methods to raise crop production have left them without water.
“Several banks opened their branches here during the time Chidambaram was finance minister. They lent money for agriculture, using which many people adopted methods to quickly increase production and used a lot of water. Now there is very little groundwater left. Our cattle and poultry are dying,” M. Bhupathy, a farmer, told IANS.

Chidambaram’s son Karti Chidambaram says 52 bank branches were set up in Sivaganga, about 400 km south of Chennai, due to his father’s efforts during his May 2004 to November 2008 tenure as finance minister.

According to the Geological Survey of India, the fall in the water table began at the turn of this century. It is now about 200 feet while earlier it was nearly 15 feet.

“Some of us are pumping water with electric motors to keep our crops alive. We are aware this will further dry up the land but we have no option,” Bhupathy lamented.

“Banks may lend us money, but if our fields turn fallow and our crops begin to wilt, will they help us? They will take legal action against us to recover dues, and eventually we will be labelled bad borrowers,” said another farmer, D. Swamy.

He blamed the political leadership for failing to address the farmers’ water woes.

However, Karti Chidambaram said it was due to his father’s initiative that agriculture was flourishing in the region.

“One has to remember that Sivaganga is located in a rain-shadow region, known to be dry since time immemorial. Yet, we are making it green through other eco-friendly methods by not just government funds but through earnings from mined graphite. If this constituency has shown some improvement, it is only because of my father’s endeavours,” he said.

“Actually, additional branches of nationalised and private banks have ushered in prosperity to the constituency and are helping the otherwise dry district that now yields multiple agricultural produces and even exports them,” he added.

Chidambaram has been elected to Lok Sabha from Sivaganga six times since 1984 and has lost only once in 1999.

This year’s Lok Sabha poll will be held in Tamil Nadu May 13 and the Sivaganga farming community’s anger over lack of water may affect Chidambaram’s fortunes.

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