Senior Gujarat Congress leaders and party workers were detained in Gandhinagar on Monday when they tried to march towards the state assembly, while protesting against the Gujarat Irrigation and Drainage Bill 2013, which, they claimed, is ‘anti-farmer’.
State Congress president Arjun Modhwadia, Leader of Opposition Shankarsinh Vaghela, central ministers Dinsha Patel and Tushar Chaudhary were among others who were detained by the police and released later.
The police also detained a number of Congress leaders and workers, who tried to march towards the assembly to protest against the Bill, which proposes stringent measures including penal actions against farmers who violate norms.
The Congress had been permitted to hold a public meeting but not a march to the assembly, police said.
The Bill was passed by the assembly in the first week of March and Governor Kamla Beniwal recently gave it her nod.
Earlier in the public meeting, Modhwadia said that the ‘draconian’ Bill will take away farmers' right to use water for irrigation.
"This government has made farmers' life difficult by not supplying electricity and now they want to restrain them from using water as well. The Congress has decided to organise a Jal Adhikar Yatra from April 10, which will begin from Dwarka. Farmers will break laws listed in this new Bill from that date," he said.
Leader of Opposition Vaghela said, "To cover up its failure in providing drinking water to Saurashtra and Kutch where there is water scarcity, the state government has drafted such a draconian Bill. With today’s public meeting, the Congress has started a people's movement against the Bill".
The central government has provided more than Rs 650 crore for water scarcity relief to Gujarat, but instead of using it, Modi is busy building his national image, alleged Union minister Dinsha Patel.
The Bill prescribes appointing canal officers of the rank of an additional assistant engineer or above, with wide powers to detain farmers found diverting water illegally from canal networks.
There is a provision in the Bill which makes it mandatory for farmers to apply for licenses from canal officers if they wish to construct tube wells, borewells or artesian wells to extract ground water, exceeding the depth prescribed by the government.
Farmers violating the provisions of the Bill will be punished with imprisonment up to six months or fined Rs 10,000.