Thirty four members of 58-Village Irrigation Farmers Association were arrested by the police when they tried to launch a hunger strike at Usilampatti, seeking a revised Government Order to ensure that the 35 tanks under 58-Village Irrigation Canal Scheme in Usilampatti taluk of Madurai and Nilakottai taluk of Dindigul get water for regular irrigation every year.
The farmers, led by association president C. Jeyaraj, were against the present G.O. which said that water could be released under the scheme only when Vaigai dam was surplussing after Ramanathapuram Big Tank was brimming with water.
This is a highly impractical rule for a scheme aimed at benefiting the dry areas of Usilampatti, for which the government has spent 100 crore on constructing canal and aqueducts, said joint secretary of the association O. Sivaprakasam.
At present, water could be released for the 58 villages when the water level in the dam goes above 67 feet.
When water was released for the first time in August 2018 on a trial basis, it was announced that 315 cusecs of water would be released for 15 days to fill up the 35 tanks. However, water could not reach Usilampatti tank even after 19 days due to a breach in the canal. Later, when Public Works Department failed to give adequate water, the officials said it was only a trial run and no Government Order was issued for the entire quantum of water, Mr. Sivaprakasam said.
Stating that the farmers were staging a series of protests for the last couple of weeks, Mr. Sivaprakasam said that Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam had promised to issue a G.O. for regular water supply under 58-Village Irrigation Canal Scheme.