Groundwater level has depleted considerably

The district administration is focusing all its energy on drinking water management, Collector Jayashree Muralidharan said at the agriculturists’ grievances meeting in Tiruchi on Friday. She said that apart from the Cauvery going dry, the groundwater level had plummeted.

This necessitated 20 per cent additional length of pipes. A geological map, using remote sensing technology, was being prepared and water sources identified.

She said hand pumps in several areas were functioning but when overhead tanks were erected, such sources failed.

“Hence we are going in for hand pumps at a number of places as drinking water is our priority. Depending upon the yield, even mini-power pumps are erected.”

Banana crop loss

Responding to the allegation of Puliyur A. Nagarajan, State vice- president of Tamil Nadu Congress Committee, that the district administration had not bothered about the 18,000 acres of land at Pettavaithalai-Andanalur region where banana had been raised, she said a survey had been conducted on the impact of drought on the region.

The gale that was mentioned by the farmers struck the region a couple of days ago and she would direct the officials to assess the damage.

Farmers lamented that despite shortfall in production, the price of banana had slumped from Rs. 35 a bunch to Rs. 3.

“We have no facilities to store and to sell at the opportune time. If the banana could be stored below 13 degrees C, it could be sold after some time,” they said. For this, she said that a cold storage was under construction and it should be ready in a couple of months.

Similarly, in response to the allegation that a number of farmers were yet to get compensation for the crop loss though it had been announced by the State government, the Collector said all farmers who had insured their crops had been disbursed compensation to the tune of Rs. 23.5 crore.

“Even those who had not insured their crops would get the compensation shortly. For this, we have already completed the spadework. However, as this is a policy decision to be taken at the government level, we will have to wait,” she said.

When Kaundampatty Subramanian, deputy secretary of Cauvery Delta Farmers Welfare Association, expressed his concern over the failure of the State government to allocate funds for clearing silt and maintaining 17 channels that have substantial ayacut, Public Works Department officials explained that funds under the drought relief would be utilised for the purpose.

“We have already submitted a proposal to the State government in this regard.”

The Collector said that she had represented to the high-level committee that visited the district recently. Besides, she would take up the issue with the Drought Relief Commission.

Ayilai Sivasuriayan and C. Masilamani, district secretaries of Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangham (CPI and CPI-M respectively), and P. Viswanathan, State president of Tamilaga Eri Matrum Aatrupasana Vivasayigal Sangham, alleged that the cooperative election conducted in the district was undemocratic.

“The Chief Minister who had won a lot of acclaim for her efforts to get the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal Award gazetted, lost all that goodwill because of the way the cooperative poll was conducted,” they added. They all pleaded for re-election.

The Collector said she had intervened and set right the election in a society when Mr. Sivasuriayan complained to her.

The Deputy Registrar, Co-operative Department, contended that there were no irregularities at all in the conduct of election.

Ms. Muralidharan contested the view of Mr. Sivasuriayan that the workers employed under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme had not been paid full wages of Rs. 148 for eight hours of work.

All those engaged in digging farm ponds were doing very well and getting full wages, she said.