IT HAPPENS ONLY IN INDIA,
GREAT JOB MR. PARMAR
it is good to eat as many as vegetables and fruits (totally vegetarian), but my aurvedic doctor asked me to stop eating every...
ABOUT 60 km from the historical town of Bijapur is a
latter-day human-made wonder - the Chikka-
padasalagi barrage. This half-km long dam on the River
Krishna is testimony to the collective will and
undaunted efforts of the people from 21 villages
around the Jamkhandi taluk of Karnataka's Bijapur district.
The idea of building a permanent barrage across the
river originated from the local practice of building a
temporary dam every year across the river by piling up
sandbags at a cost of Rs 50,000 to Rs 80,000 annually.
The farmers realised that they desperately needed a
The municipal corporators of the nearby Jarnkhandi
town had earlier submitted a proposal to the Karnataka
government for a similar barrage to supply drinking
water in 1967. Nothing happened for 11 years. Then
finallv, an expert committee recommended
Chikkapadasalagi as the ideal site for the barrage. But
the government felt there was no point in going ahead
with the project 5ince the larger Upper Krishna Project
(UKP), being built further down the river, would submerge such smaller barrages.
That's when the farmers decided to go ahead on
their own. They'asked their leader and director of the
Jamkhandi Cooperative Bank, Siddu B Nyame Gowda,
to help them.
The Idea appeared outrageous. at first. A private
barrage on agovernment-owned river? But when a
young engineer and small-time contractor, Ashok
Tungal, made a rough estimate and said that the project
would cost anywhere between Rs 75 lakh and Rs 85
lakh, the villagers felt it was within their reach.
Altogether, there were some 1,400 farming families
owning agricultural pump sets with a total capacity of
13,000 hp. There would be enough funds for the project if each paid Rs 500 per hp. The idea was all the
more feasible because their investment could be recovered in just one year if the 10,530 ha of land over a 42
km-longstrIp of the river's banks was provided adequatewater.
An umbrella organisation, the Krishna Teera Raitha
S-angha (Krishna Ri verbank
Farmers' Association or the
KTRS), was set up in 1987 to
oversee the construction of the
barrage" The local MLA was
made chairperson so that he
could lobby for the project at the
government level. Unfortunately. the bureaucrats in
Bangalore didn't seem the least
Among other conditions, the
government stipulated that the
cost of the entire project be
borne by the farmers; that a
detailed project plan should be
approved by the PWD; that the
barrage. once completed, would
be handed over to the government; that the beneficiaries
should pay tax for the water
consumed; that they should
never claim any compensation
for the submergence of the barrage once the UKD was completed: and, that the construction be
handled solely by the PWD. The
KTRS. eager to go ahead, agreed
to all the conditions except the last one. "Leakage of
funds now, and leakage of water later. We don't want
PWD s~pervision." said the farmers.
Much robbying later. work began. Tungal, with the
help of a retired chief engineer, L T Amminbhavi of
Dharwar, procured the construction material. Nyame
Gowda worked to raise funds, while some farmers.
under the guidance of Hanmanta Shirahatti, began to
enlist manpower, especially from among the poor and
marginal farmers who could not pay cash.
But there was a monetary setback. Steel prices had
shot up and the project cost had to be revised to Rs 94
lakh. Also, the government's promised Rs 25 lakh had
not,come. Only 60 per cent of the estimated 1,400 families had paid their promised share of money.
Undaunted, Nyame Gowda and his friends went
around raising funds. Some farmers came forward to
pledge their land and raise loans. While the Bijapur
zilla parishad (ZP) refused to give a single rupee to the
project, despite the fact that 21 villages under its
administration were to benefit from the barrage, the
neighbouring Belgaurn ZP decided to contribute Rs 5
lakh, although just six of its villages would benefit.
The Jarnkhandi Urban Bank offered loans to farmers
involved in the project. Bank employees donated one
day's salary to the cause. CAPART, the Delhi-based
government funding agency, volunteered a loan of Rs
60 lakh. It was a tempting offer, but the KTRS decidea
to borrow only Rs 28 lakh.
In December 1990, the barrage finally emerged out
of the Krishna waters as a symbol of people's power. It
had taken them just one year to complete a task which
would have taken the PWD five years and Rs 3 crore.
All farmers in the area now have access to water
from the barrage. Those who want to instal pumpsets
have to pay.the KTRS Rs 300 per hp. Most of them
recovered their investments within a year, some have
even made further investments on their land.
Kiran Gowda Patil of Nandgaon village in Athani
taluk has laid six km of PVC pipeline to draw water
and is now talking of making "double profits". Many
farmers whose land is at an altitude have installed
booster pumps. Bhagwant Siddoji, who was struggling
to grow jowar in his 1.6 ha plot all these years, is now
growing sugarcane, plantains and sunflowers.
40 Raju Nyamagowda, who until now had to be content with growing dryland crops on half his land, is
now irrigating his entire holding of 12 ha. He has
already purchased a tractor and is now experimenting
with corn, wheat and, groundnut.
The legal status of the barrage is not clear. Though
the structure was to have been handed over to the government, no move has been made in this direction so
far. The Virendra Patil ministry has paid the KTRS the
Rs 25 lakh promised it by the Hegde government. The
gesture, although belated, has helped the KTRS clear
The water glut has brought with it its own set of
problems. Since electricity is free, many don't bother
to switch off their pump sets. A few overenthusiastic
farmers are already facing the problem of waterlogging
and salinity is bound to creep in soon if nothing is
Another more intransigent problem has been
caused by a change in cropping patterns. Most farmers
here have given up cultivating traditional crops like
jowar and pepper. Sugarcane is the new favourite since
it is easy to cultivate. But selling it is a problem
because there are no buyers. The sugar factories in the
region are choked with sugarcane stocks.
Five years ago, the farmers were dreaming of their
own barrage. Today they are dreaming of their own
sugar factory. This is a challenge which will require
more than just physical labour - it will also need an
investment of Rs 341 crore.
But the KTRS is undeterred. In the 1991 elections,
Nyame Gowda trounced Hegde to become a Union
minister and this has boosted the confidence of the
association. With Rs 20 lakh left over from the barrage
project, the KTRS has to now mobilise 10 per cent of
the total capital itself, while public funding will look
after the rest.