LAHORE– The Punjab Assembly’s Question Hour on Monday saw the Opposition falling harsh on the Irrigation Department for not providing correct answers.
The session started with Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal Khan in the chair, 45 minutes beyond the scheduled time of 3pm. The House took questions relating to Irrigation Department, Punjab.
On a question put by Ms Naseem Lodhi, the Minister said as many as 49 dams have been completed to reserve water in Pothohar areas and 10 more are under development of which five would complete by June next. He said of the 10 work on three has been suspended due to court stay order which was issued after contractors concerned were inquired into for certain charges and they moved the court. To a question by Ms Seemal Kamran as to the replacement of the worn out iron gates at headworks of upper and lower Jehlum canals, the Minister said the gates are repaired whenever the XEN concerned demands. The Minister admitted that water supply in these canals is not up to the required share of water. The questioner was not satisfied with the answer. To a question put by Waseem Afzal on behalf of Asif Bashir Mangat, the Minister said the as many as 252 people were fined by the court for water theft in Mandi Bahauddin in 2008-09 and the department claimed from then fine of Rs 19million. The questioner asked the Minister to let the house know the amount of fine imposed by the court but he replied the cases were subjudice. This contradiction provoked the questioner to show anger on the Irrigation department which had provided the incorrect reply. He found the Secretary Irrigation also not present in the House which exasperated his emotion and he begun to bust out at the bureaucrats counting their perks and salaries. On learning that the Secretary could not come as he had to appear before the Supreme Court, Waseem Afzal said the sanctity of the House is supreme than the Court. Therefore the Secretary should have been here. The Speaker asked the Minister to come with a precise answer within two days. Ms Zobia Rubab Malik found disparity when the minister answered that the desilting of canals in Shahpur Division in 2008-09 cost about Rs 26lakh when nothing was spent when desilting was carried out by government contractors in the following season.
To question from Ch Zaheerud Din Khan the House was told by the Minister that under the Water Apportionment Accord of 1991, old canals of Punjab received lesser share of water than the newly developed canals of Sindh. He said the water consumption from the year 1972 to 1984 was the baseline for calculating the water distribution under which the newly developed canals in Sindh had to get more water than the old canals of Punjab. The questioner aggrieved that this formula has rendered Punjab canals highly short of water and wanted the issue to be raised at CCI.
To a question on the collection of abiana, the Minister surprised the House by saying it was charged on the basis of land and not the water used. The questioner said this means abaina is must to be paid by a cultivator even if he does not get a drop of water. The Speaker wanted the Minister to amend the rules and charge abiana on the consumption of water. Ms Hadija Umar on the question on the water supply to Lalo Good Mines Okara, found incorrect the answer that water in being supplied to mines.