Will break our backbone, say farmers
JAMMU, June 29: The Finance Department has asked the Irrigation and Flood Control (I&FC) Department to collect again ‘Abiyana’- an irrigation tax from the farmers across the Union Territory for the last seven years, which was abolished by then BJP-PDP Government, led by late Mohammed Mufti Sayeed during its maiden budget in 2015.
During the first budget session, the then Finance Minister, Haseeb A. Drabu had announced regarding abolish of the Abiyana on the floor of the Assembly by saying, “Not only is it archaic and a symbol of feudalism. The collections from this irrigation tax are less than the cost of collection and the abolition would provide a relief to all the farmers across the State.”
Following the announcement of budget session, the then Director Finance, PHE, I&FC Department with order No: PW/Hyd/Acctts/BA/2015-16, dated 15/10/2015 directed the Chief Engineer, I&FC, Jammu/Kashmir which read “As per the Budget Cabinet Decision 2015 Abiyana has been abolished and it does not pertain to 2015-16 period only, but thereafter too. However, the previous outstanding on this account is to be recovered as there is no mention of abolition/remission of the sa”
Now, the incumbent Director Finance of Jal Shakti Department with vide order No: JSD-Acc/03/3/2021-Acctts-PHE, I&FC, dated 22/06/2022 to Secretary (Water Resources Regulatory Authority)/ Chief Engineer, Jal Shakti (I&FC) Jammu/ Kashmir, which read as the matter regarding the abolition of Abiyana was taken up with the Finance Department and the same was discussed in a meeting held on 01/06/2022. Accordingly Finance Department vide No FD-Code/57/2022 dated 14/06/2022 conveyed the decision taken in the meeting which is reproduced as under:
“It was observed that no Government order has been issued for the abolition of Abiyana subsequent to the budget announcement in 2015. Meanwhile, the Department has continued to collect Abiyana during these years. Waiving off the Abiyana retrospectively w.e.f 2015-16 will create complications and accounting issues. It was therefore decided that Abiyana shall continue to be realized and shall not be waived off.
“I am as such directed to request you kindly take further necessary action in the matter as per the direction of the Finance Department.”
Terming the Government decision as unfortunate, the farming community are aghast over the decision, said a farmer Mandev Singh from RS Pura, adding that the Department concerned rather than directing the I&FC to collect again Abiyana put the same before the LG administration for redressal. “If the Abiyana was not abolished and order of the same wasn’t received so far then why did they not collect it for the last seven years,” Mandev asserted.
The I& FC Department Chief Engineer, Hemesh Manchand confirmed that the department is going to collect ‘Abiyana’ for the last seven years from the farmers as per direction of the Finance Department and in this regard all the officials of divisional level being asked to collect it as soon as possible.
On being asked, why the department didn’t collect it for the last many years, he said that due to lack of clarity after the announcement and due to absence of the Government’s gazetted notification over it. The employees didn’t visit the farmers to collect it.
Now, the Finance Department made a crystal clear and directed to all the divisional that it is merely a rhetoric by the then Government on the floor of the Assembly. “If it was an official order of the Budget Cabinet Session, then why has the Government till date not sent an official communiqué to concerned departments,” said Manchanda while quoting the Finance Department.
“The abolition of Abiyana in 2015 had come as a big relief to the farming community, but fresh directives from the Irrigation & Flood Control Department is negating Government’s own order which has shocked the farmers at large,” said another farmer.
However, the decision of the then BJP-PDP Government over the abolition of the irrigation tax was to be considered as one of the big achievements of the then Government but its reinforcement on the farming community is very unfortunate and the incumbent Government should abolish it totally, otherwise it will break the backbone of the farming community because seven year Abiyana submit simultaneously is a ‘Hercules Task”, a farmer said.