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IRIG Budget: Needed Output Not Outlays

irrigation potential, potential created

The slow growth of agriculture is leading to inflationary pressures on the one hand and political disappointment of the common man on the other. Agriculture needs overhauling if it has to catch up with other sectors of the economy. To run the agricultural operation smoothly throughout the year, controlled, assured and continuous water supply through irrigation system is very important. Infact irrigation is the most crucial parameter for raising the agricultural productivity and hence production. In the absence of irrigation facilities, agriculture is nothing more than a gamble. Since the inception of planning in India, a huge amount of investment has already been pumped for the development of irrigation projects. Finance Minister P. Chidambaram came out with various proposals to enhance the irrigation potential of the country with enhanced outlays.

Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP) was launched during 1996-97 to give loan assiatnce to the states to help then conplete some of the incomplete major/medium irrigation projects which were at the advanced stage of completion. The surface minor irrigation schemes of North Eastern States, Hill States of Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Jammu& Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Kalahandi, Bolangir and Koraput (KBK) districts of Orissa have also been provided Central Loan Assistance (CLA) under this programme since 1999-2000. Like other central scheme, grant component was introduced in the pogramme since April 2004. The criteria was further relaxed from April 2005 to include minor irrigation schemes of non special category states with potential of more than 100 hectare with preference to tribal and drought prone areas which benefit dalits and adivasis. The assistance being provided since 2004-05 is on the pattern of normal central assistance, that is, 70 per cent loan and 30 per cent grant in case of non-special category states and 10 per cent loan and 90 per cent grant in case of special category-states and KBK districts of Orrisa. For funding purposes, the drought pone tribal and flood pone areas in the country are treated at par with special category states. AIBP has been revamped in order to complete more irrigation projects in the quickest possible time. 35 projects are likely to be completed during 2006-07 and additional irrigation potential of 900000 ha will be created. During the current fiscal, additional irrigation potential of 2,400,000 ha including 900000 ha under AIBP will be created. As against the outlay of Rs. 7121 crores in 2006-07 the outlay for 2007-08 will be increased to Rs. 11000. Of this the grant component to states governments will be Rs. 3580 crores compared to the last fiscal of Rs.2350 crores.

Government sanctioned a pilot scheme for National Project to Repair, Renovate and Restore Water Bodies directly linked to agriculture in January 2005 with an estimated cost of Rs. 300 crores to be shared by Centre and the States in the ratio 3:1. The water bodies having cultivated command area of more than 40 ha and up to 2000 ha were included under the pilot scheme in one or two districts of each state. The objective of the scheme is to restore and augment storage capacities of water bodies and to recover and extend their lost irrigation potential. The scheme has been approved in 24 districts projects in 14 states, namely, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Gujarat, Kerala and Maharashtra at an estimated cost of Rs. 296.87 crores. Central share of Rs.132.01 crores has been released to the states by December 31, 2006. This project covers 1076 water bodies with total original cultivable command area of 2.99 lakh ha. The physical work for restoration has been completed for 232 water bodies and the work is in progress in the remaining 844 water bodies. The potential created will be a part of Bharat Nirman. The project was expanded throughout the country through external assistance. World Bank has signed a loan agreement with Tamil Nadu for Rs. 2182 crores to restore 5763 water bodies having a command area of 400000 ha. An agreement for Andhra Pradesh is at an advanced stage of negotiations and is expected to be finalized by March 2007 and will cover 3000 water bodies with a command area of 250000 ha. Preparation of similar projects for Karnataka, Orrisa and West Bengal are at different stages and at least two more agreements are likely to be finalized before June 2007. Central Government urged the states to put forward similar proposals to cover the whole country within next two years. Unfortunately there is no mention of steps to improve the efficiency of water use on the pattern of the proposal developed by Union Ministry of Water Resources. It is not clear one more model of water harvesting is needed while it is envisaged that More Income per Drop of Water Movement will cover every block of the country through state agricultural universities, IITs, WALMIS and ICAR institutions. In fact times have gone for pilots and what is needed is a movement for optimum utilization of every drop of water.

Centrally sponsored Command Area Development Programme started in 1974-75 with an objective to bridge the gap between irrigation potential created and the utilization to optimize agricultural productivity/production through an integrated and coordinated approach for efficient land and water management in the irrigated commands. The programme was restructured in April 2004 and renamed as Command Area Development and Water management Programme. Some components were deleted and two new components - correction of system deficiencies up to distributaries of 150 cusec capacity and renovation and desilting of existing irrigation tanks within CAD projects were included. Mandatory 10 per cent beneficiary contribution in some of the components was also introduced Up to December 31, 2006, 311 projects with cultivable command area of28.58 million ha have been covered. By the end of March 2006, the construction of field channels has been completed in an area of 17.43 million ha. The programme is presently going on in 136 projects with balance executable CCA of 7.70 mh.
Depletion of groundwater has assumed grave propositions. The Central groundwater has identified 1065 assessment blocks in the country as over exploited or critical. Over 80 per cent of these blocks are in 1000 districts in seven states. The strategy for ground water recharge is to divert rain water into dug wells. Each structure will cost about Rs. 4000. The requirement is seven million structures on land belonging to small and marginal farmers. Government provides 100 per cent subsidy to small and marginal farmers and 50 per cent subsidy to other farmers. Ministry of Water Resources will finalize the scheme shortly. A sum of Rs. 1800 crores will be transferred to NABARD which will be held in escrow and disbursed through lead Bank of the beneficiaries’ district.

National Rain fed Area Authority (NRAA) was established to coordinate all the schemes relating to watershed development and other aspect of land use. The budget has proposed an allocation of Rs. 100 crores for the new rain fed area development programme. To train farmers in good water management practices, Indian Council of agricultural Research (ICAR) will set up a teaching-cum-demonstration model of water harvesting in each of the 32 selected state agricultural universities and ICAR institutes. Each institution will train one hundred trainers and one thousand farmers every year in two week and one week programme. An interest free loan of Rs.3 crores will be provided to each institution for a Corpus fund. The yield from the fund will be used for implementing the training programme.

Irrigation is one of the six components for development of rural infrastructure under Bharat Nirman. The irrigation component of Bharat Nirman aims at creation of irrigation potential of 10 million ha during 2005-06 through 2008-09 mainly through completion of ongoing major and medium irrigation projects. Utilization of completed projects/schemes is also emphasized. Further, development of new minor irrigation to cater to the requirement of specific areas, particularly to provide benefit to small and marginal farmers and dalits and tribal, has also been included in Bharat Nirman. Duping 2005-06, against the target of 1.90 million ha, the reported irrigation potential created was 1 .45 mh.

Since the inception of AIBP centre has spent a total of Rs.20598.48 cores with the states releasing an additional Rs. 15 thousand crores or so. Up to March 2006, 50major/medium irrigation projects and 4187 surface Minor irrigation projects have been completed. Relaxation in criteria for all approved projects in drought-prone areas, tribal areas, states with lower irrigation development than national average and districts identified under PM’s package for agrarian distress was approved by the cabinet in November 2006. But despite this huge public funds infusion, the country’s net irrigated area remained virtually static around 53 to 55 million hectares (mh) Likewise the gross cropped area irrigated has increased from 46.5 mh to 49.3 mh for all cereals; from 3mh to 3.3 mh for pulses and from 3.9 mh to 4.0 mh in case of sugarcane. These marginal increases have been offset by declines in respect of oilseeds from 7.3 mh to 6.5mh and for cotton from 3.2 mh to 2.6 mh. Alternatively, the performance of AIBP’s can be measured in terms of the irrigation potential that has been created. In any irrigation project, what we create is the base infrastructure- from the head works on the river, reservoir to trap water, main canal, branch canals and distributaries up to the outlet opening (which caters to 50 to 100 hectares). How much of this irrigation potential reaches the farmers depends upon whether the catchments have received enough rainfall to operate close to the full reservoir level. Three may be no watercourses to convey water from the outlets points to the fields. Understandably, the creation of water resources infrastructure is not a short-term task in a vast and diverse nation like our. The irrigation potential created in the Eighth plan was only 2.22 mh, which rose to 4.22mh in the Ninth Plan and in the Tenth Plan it is likely to be 5.74 mh. Of this roughly half is on account of AIBP. This is against increase of 10 mh each recorded during 1970s and 1980’s, when there was no AIBP. During the period 1995-96 though 2005-06, irrigation potential crated was 4.04 mh with another 0.9 mh estimated to created this fiscal. All that adds to about 5 mh over a span of 11 years. With AIBP clearly not delivering the intended benefits, centre has since embarked n a new programme under Bharat Nirman to develop 10 mh of new irrigation potential between 2005-06 through 2008-09 including 5.2 mh through major and medium projects and the rest through minor schemes. The question arises: Has the benefits of this huge public funds trickled down to its beneficiary- The Indian farmers. Apparently, AIBP conferred neither acceleration nor benefit. Moreover by mixing budget allocation with banking funds, FM has created the myth of a new deal for irrigation in the budget. A special plan is being implemented over a period of three years in 31 especially distressed districts in four states with a total amount of Rs. 16979 crores. Of this about Rs. 12400 crores will be on water related schemes. But the scheme is not under implementation and water related scheme has a budget provision of Rs. 100 crores only. It is not enough that the outlays and the number of programme are increased. But the question is: why has all this not translated in to an increase in the actual irrigated area. The hard fact is that over 35 of the expenditures under AIBP were diverted, parked or misutilized among other things, as per Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) report. Only time will tell that the benefits of infusion of huge public money will translate into tangible benefits to the Indian farmers or not.

Dr Gursharan Singh Kainth
GAD Institute of Development Studies
14-Preet Avenue, Majitha Road
PO Naushera, Amritsar 143 008

Published: 2008-01-01
Author: Dr Gursharan Singh Kainth

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