It was the year 1841. The land between the river Yamuna and Sitara was completely barren. There were no canals in the region. There were neither any forest trees nor agricultural lands. By the 1830s after experimenting with the Permanent (Zamindari), Mahalwari, and Ryotwari systems of land revenue management, the British government had lost all hope in Zamindari for maintaining the profitability of Indian agriculture for the mighty British Empire. They had already begun to construct extensive networks of water bodies across India, especially in the region with the Mahalwari and Ryotwari systems of land revenue.
The famous Punjab canal system of the British colonial empire was followed by their attention toward the eastern parts of Punjab including Doon valley. In Doon valley, by the year 1841 British government had already completed one canal (Bijapur) while the second one (Rajpur) was under construction and the third one (Kuttha Puttha) was about to be commissioned.
This third canal in the Doon valley was supposed to irrigate around 17,000 acres of land. In April 1841, the Department of Land Revenue prepared the report but by July 1841 the Department of Revenue from the Delhi-Karnal Division protested against the proposed Kuttha Puttha canal as it would reduce the water supply in the Delhi-Karnal region. The construction of Kuttha Puttha Nahar was about to snatch around 75 cubic foot water per second at an average from Delhi, Rohtak, and Hisar sub-divisions. Delhi was already facing a shortage of drinking water while Rohtak and Hisar needed more water for irrigation.
But in October 1841 the Commissioner of Meerut gave the final permission to construct the Kuttha Puttha and by April 1842 the construction of this third canal in Doon valley was started. The budget estimate for this construction was Rs 90,307 while the government sanctioned Rs 1,00,000. The preference of the British government for Doon valley over Delhi was apparent as Delhi was still under the control of the Mughal empire. The construction of this third canal was most important for the people’s settlement in Dehradun because this canal was supposed to supply drinking water to the city of Dehradun which had an acute shortage of water at that point in time.
After the completion of the canal, the farmers who were supposed to get water for irrigation of their agricultural land from this were charged at the rate of Rs 5 Aana per Bigha of land. This would translate into an income of around Rs 7,000 yearly for the British government. The three big landlords of the region were given the contract of collecting the irrigation fee from all the farmers of the area. These three landlords were also supposed to do the necessary repairs to the canal.
The resistance from Delhi and Haryana against the construction of Kuttha Puttha in Doon Valley was ignored and misunderstood by the British government. Within three years of the completion of this canal in 1854, the Mughals of Delhi revolted against the British Empire in the year 1857. This spread across India as the first war of independence against the British.
This is not the first time Garhwal acted against Delhi while constructing canals in Doon valley. The historical sources suggest that the famous Garhwal queen Karnawati, who is also known for cutting the nose of Mughal generals, had constructed Rajpur and Katta Pattha canals in Doon valley during the 17th century. Construction of these canals in Doon valley by Karnawati boosted the human settlement in Dehradun for the first time while at the same time reducing the water supply to the Mughals in Delhi. The historical remains of these canals constructed by Karnawati are still visible in Dehradun.
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