The proposed bill will decide PIDA fate
By Javed Iqbal
LAHORE: The Punjab government will repeal the Punjab Irrigation and Drainage Authority (PIDA) Act 1997 and introduce a farmers’ body called Punjab Khal Panchayat (KP) Authority.
As per the proposed bill The Punjab Khal Panchayat Act 2019, the KP will be framed on a water course level. All the landholders who get their share of water from a watercourse can be elected as members of Khal Panchayat. KP includes a president and secretary general elected for three years. A representative of the authority will conduct the elections of the Panchayat.
The KP will be responsible for warabandi and resolving the disputes among farmers. It will prepare and submit the warabandi to the canal officer who will implement it. Moreover, it will report to the canal officer on the violation of the warabandi or water theft. The officer concerned after investigating the issue would act accordingly. The KP will also prepare abiana bill and help distribute them. The canal officer will also refer the matters to the KP.
Moreover, a body Punjab Khal Panchayat Authority will also be established. It will consist of a Chairman, six farmers, six non-farmer members, including two women. Minister for Irrigation will be the chairman of the authority. There will be a Managing Director of the authority while three general managers will form its Board of Management. The authority will also prepare warabandi, conduct elections of the KPs and control water theft. The authority could also refer disputes to the District Collector for final order. It could hire employees and consultants and could delegate its powers to the MD or any other officer.
After the Punjab Khal Panchayat Act 2019 is passed all Area Water Boards and Farmer Organisations (FOs) will cease to exist. The PIDA employees will be shifted to the newly established authority while decisions made by the FOs will remain intact. At present, PIDA was performing in five canal commands i.e. Lower Chenab Canal (East) Faisalabad, Lower Chenab Canal (West) Faisalabad, Bahawalnagar Canal, and Lower Bari Doab Canal Sahiwal.
PIDA is responsible to look after all the affairs of irrigation and drainage in Punjab. It had to replace the Punjab Irrigation Department within a certain period of time. It has curtailed role of the Irrigation officers in the water system. However, it failed to deliver after it was politicised by the consecutive governments. The farmers had lodged complaints against the PIDA.
Earlier, a committee constituted to give recommendations on the fate of PIDA had also proposed to repeal it during the previous PML-N regime. It is to be recalled that the PIDA had not only badly failed to deliver but also collect the abiana from farmers. The PIDA could not collect about Rs 7 billion from farmers as abiana and water theft fine, etc.