Farmers take no permission, officers do not survey wells
No one is following regulations
The Water, Land and Trees Act (WALTA) was enacted in 2002. Meant to regulate groundwater use, the Act requires farmers to register their borewells with the mandal revenue office after getting clearance from the district groundwater office. Farmers like Muniratnam Naidu in Chittoor district laugh at the idea of taking permission. “All one needs to do is hire a rig, pay money to a geologist and drill a borewell,” he said.
T Basavaiah, deputy tehsildar of Chittoor district’s K V Palle mandal, admitted to widespread violation of WALTA in the district. “We have seized three borewells this year for which permission was not sought,” he said. But the Act has helped monitor and record the extent of groundwater use and generated awareness among farmers, said A K Jain, special secretary to the state’s irrigation and command area development department.
Farmers consider groundwater their right. “The authorities have not provided us with alternative sources of irrigation. How can they stop us from finding something that is ours?” asked K Basappa, resident of Ramanapalli village in Mahabubnagar’s Hanwada mandal. Basappa drilled three borewells between 2009 and 2010 and did not apply for permission. No one questioned him either, he added. Hanwada mandal’s revenue officer, Anjana Devi, maintained no one could drill borewells without their knowledge.
Basappa said at least 300 borewells are functional in his village; there is no count of failed borewells. But the data with the mandal office shows one farmer sought permission to drill a borewell and only one drilled borewell without permission, which the district officials stopped well in time.
Officials get to know of borewells only if there are complaints, which are rare, said Basappa. Often if one farmer strikes water, his neighbour attempts to drill a borewell close to that spot. If there is disagreement between two farmers, cases go to the mandal revenue officer. After investigation, either one or both the borewells are sealed.
Mandal revenue officers claim they submit monthly reports to the groundwater department on the number of borewells. The revenue inspector and the village revenue officer are mandated under the law to visit each borewell site for verification. Farmers say officials hardly ever conduct field surveys.
Then there are bribes
Bal Swami of Burugupalle village in Mahabubnagar district said he tried to get permission for two borewells six years ago. He was denied permission but decided to get them drilled.
“We are required to go through different departments and that makes it tough. Bribes for permission can be expensive,” he said. In some cases farmers bribe mandal officials for power connections instead of taking permission, said B Peddiraji, tehsildar of Butchayyapeta in Visakhapatnam district. He admitted to WALTA violations. He said he received 100 applications for drilling borewells in Butchayyapeta mandal this year but the actual number of borewells drilled would surely be double. “They are doing it illegally all the time,” he said.
|“To get permission for a borewell we are required to go through different departments. Bribes for permissions are expensive”
—BAL SWAMI, Burugupalle village
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