CHANDIGARH, November 17: Taking note of the large number of human bodies routinely seen at the Khanauri barrage of the Bhakra canal and the difficulty faced by relatives in recovering the bodies from the water, the Punjab and Haryana High Court ordered installation of underwater lights at the barrage. The order was given more than two years ago but to date no lights have been installed.
In a letter to the Punjab Chief Secretary, Inderjit Singh Jaijee, convenor of the Movement Against State Repression, has called attention to the long delay in implementing the court’s order and asked the Punjab government to comply with the court order immediately.
The letter urges the government to take effective and immediate steps to recover all bodies from this and other canals in the districts of Sangrur, Patiala, Fatehgarh Sahib and Ropar. The letter also calls for recording the particulars of every body recovered and says that sincere effort should be made to identity the body and establish whether the person was murdered, died in a accident of committed suicide.
Linking the high number of bodies in the canal to the prevalence of rural suicide in Punjab, the letter mentions police record showing that every month between 35 and 40 bodies are seen at Khanauri barrage.
Jaijee argues that “Since only a very short portion of the Bhakra canal is in Sangrur district and the maximum length is in the districts of Ropar, Fatehgarh Sahib and Patiala, it can safely be asserted that the overwhelming majority of the bodies in the canal would have come from Patiala, Fatehgarh Sahib and Ropar. If we know for certain that not less than 400 bodies were observed in the Bhakra canal at Khanauri in a single year, we know that the number of suicide deaths in the upstream districts would vastly exceed 300 for ten years. In ten years the number of bodies would be 4,000. Not all would be suicide victims; some would be the victims of accidents and murders. It is our estimate that three-fourths of these bodies are suicide victims (3000) but even if one assumes that only half of the bodies were suicide victims that is still 2,000 persons.”