For­est loot

Af­ter two bud­gets and 5,300 crore in fund­ing, the Cen­tre's mi­cro ir­ri­ga­tion pro­ject that prom­ises wa­ter to ev­ery farm­land is not even close to a roll-out

Down to Earth - - CONTENTS - JI­TEN­DRA

Mad­hya Pradesh opens large tracts of forests for com­mer­cial ex­ploita­tion

Tof deficit mon­soons this HE NEWS year has once again left the Cen­tre wor­ried. A con­cerned prime min­is­ter chaired a high-level meet­ing on June 8 where he em­pha­sised the need to quickly aug­ment the ir­ri­ga­tion ca­pac­ity of the coun­try. But he con­ve­niently kept quiet about his pet pro­gramme on mi­cro ir­ri­ga­tion that was an­nounced dur­ing the 2014 Bud­get with a fund al­lo­ca­tion of 1,000 crore.

` Two bud­gets later, the Prad­han Mantri Kr­ishi Sin­chai Yo­jana (pmksy) that had the tagline “each drop to ev­ery field” is nowhere close to a roll-out. In fact, of­fi­cials at the Union agri­cul­ture min­istry, which is the nodal min­istry, say that if there are no fur­ther de­lays, the min­istry can at best roll out a pi­lot of the scheme in 100 dis­tricts by 2017. pmksy aims at con­nect­ing ev­ery field in the coun­try with mi­cro-ir­ri­ga­tion fa­cil­i­ties through ei­ther ex­ist­ing wa­ter­bod­ies in a vil­lage or with new wa­ter­bod­ies to be cre­ated un­der dif­fer­ent schemes.

So what went wrong? pmksy is the first ma­jor gov­ern­ment scheme that at­tempted to con­verge three ma­jor min­istries— agri­cul­ture, ru­ral de­vel­op­ment and wa­ter re­sources—for im­ple­men­ta­tion. And this con­ver­gence has now be­come one of the ma­jor rea­sons for its de­lay. Even though the Cab­i­net has given ap­proval to the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture's plan, it is still far away from im­ple­men­ta­tion. R B Sinha, joint sec­re­tary, agri­cul­ture min­istry,and in-charge of pmksy, says, “We have told the prime min­is­ter that we can at best roll out a pi­lot pro­ject in the next two-three years in 100 cho­sen dis­tricts.”

A year later,the min­istries have not even

The agri­cul­ture min­istry says it can at best roll out a pi­lot of the scheme in 100 dis­tricts by 2018

car­ried out map­ping of ex­ist­ing wa­ter­bod­ies at the vil­lage or pan­chayat level, which is a pre-req­ui­site to start plan­ning.

J P Mishra, agri­cul­ture ad­viser at niti Ayog, says the ab­sence of pri­mary data and spa­tial study re­gard­ing ex­ist­ing wa­ter­bod­ies is the main hur­dle. “We have Cen­sus data (which gives the num­ber of wa­ter­bod­ies) but do not have spa­tial data (which gives the ex­act lo­ca­tions), ”says Mishra.

A rough es­ti­mate based on the latest data avail­able with the agri­cul­ture min­istry sug­gests that the coun­try has 139 mil­lion hectares (ha) of ul­ti­mate ir­ri­ga­tion po­ten­tial out of which only 92 mil­lion ha is get­ting ir­ri­gated un­der dif­fer­ent gov­ern­ment pro­grammes. This means pmksy has to cover the re­main­ing 47 mil­lion ha. “But no one knows ex­actly how much area is left to be cov­ered un­der this scheme,” says S L Jain, for­mer com­mis­sioner, Min­istry of Wa­ter Re­sources, who was briefly re­spon­si­ble for the scheme.

A year down the drain

pmksy be­ing one of Modi’s pet projects, both wa­ter re­sources and agri­cul­ture min­istries wanted to im­ple­ment the scheme.As a re­sult, the first few months af­ter the an­nounce­ment were wasted de­cid­ing on which min­istry would im­ple­ment the scheme. Fi­nally, the prime min­is­ter awarded the scheme to the wa­ter re­sources min­istry. Soon, the min­istry said the scheme was too daunt­ing and could not be im­ple­mented by it.“The then sec­re­tary of wa­ter re­sources Alok Rawat told the prime min­is­ter that his min­istry was en­gaged in ma­jor and mi­nor ir­ri­ga­tion projects which in­clude dams and canals. As a re­sult, it did not have the ex­per­tise or the data to im­ple­ment a mi­cro-ir­ri­ga­tion scheme that re­quires wa­ter and farm­ing data at the pan­chayat level,” says a se­nior of­fi­cial of the wa­ter re­sources min­istry on the con­di­tion of anonymity.

The prime min­is­ter then de­cided to rope in three min­istries to im­ple­ment the scheme. On Novem­ber 14, 2014, he con­ducted a meet­ing with se­nior of­fi­cials from the ru­ral de­vel­op­ment, wa­ter re­sources and agri­cul­ture min­istries.It was de­cided that the agri­cul­ture min­istry would spear­head the pro­ject with help from the other two min­istries. The prime min­is­ter also sug­gested that pmksy be im­ple­mented the way Prad­han Mantri Gram Sadak Yo­jana (pmgsy) had been done.

Real is­sues re­main

The de­ci­sion to fol­low the pmgsy pat­tern in im­ple­ment­ing pmksy is en­cour­ag­ing, but a lot needs to be done be­fore that is pos­si­ble. pmgsy, which has been rea­son­ably suc­cess­ful in con­nect­ing re­mote vil­lages with roads, was started in 2000. Its suc­cess rests on the de­ci­sion to set up a spe­cial tech­ni­cal agency, Na­tional Ru­ral Roads De­vel­op­ment Agency, to im­ple­ment it. The agency is headed by tech­ni­cal ex­perts and sur­passes the rou­tine ad­min­is­tra­tive mech­a­nisms. Such a mech­a­nism is miss­ing in pmksy. The Cab­i­net-ap­proved de­cen­tralised state-level plan­ning and dis­trict-level ex­e­cu­tion model will be su­per­vised through the Prime Min­is­ter's Of­fice. “We will form state-level plan­ning com­mit­tees un­der the chair­man­ship of chief sec­re­tary and dis­trict-level plan­ning com­mit­tee which will be headed by the dis­trict col­lec­tors. The dis­trict plans would give us a clear pic­ture,” says Sinha. Mishra says pmksy de­pends on dis­trict col­lec­tors. “If they take the scheme as rou­tine work then it would not re­alise its full po­ten­tial,” warns Mishra. The pmgsy did not have to go through this lengthy bu­reau­cratic process.

There is also lit­tle clar­ity on the roles the dif­fer­ent min­istries will play.An of­fi­cial from the ru­ral de­vel­op­ment min­istry says that there is al­ready a se­ries of schemes on ir­ri­ga­tion and no­body knows where the new scheme sits.

“There is the Ac­cel­er­ated Ir­ri­ga­tion Ben­e­fit Pro­gramme that pro­vides ir­ri­ga­tion to the north-eastern states, other hilly states like Ut­tarak­hand, Hi­machal Pradesh and Jammu and Kash­mir. There is a sep­a­rate scheme for ir­ri­ga­tion fa­cil­i­ties for the In­te­grated Ac­tion Plan dis­tricts that are af­fected by Left ex­trem­ism or are drought­prone,” says the of­fi­cial. Be­sides, a lot of wa­ter­bod­ies are be­ing cre­ated un­der the Ma­hatma Gandhi Na­tional Ru­ral Em­ploy­ment Guar­an­tee Scheme (mgnregs) and the In­te­grated Wa­ter­shed Man­age­ment Pro­gramme.

A ru­ral min­istry of­fi­cial says the agri­cul­ture min­istry has as­signed no task un­der mgnregs, which can be used to em­ploy vil­lage res­i­dents to con­struct the ir­ri­ga­tion chan­nels un­der the mi­croir­ri­ga­tion scheme. The same sen­ti­ment is echoed by Jagdeesh Singh of In­te­grated Wa­ter­shed Man­age­ment Pro­gramme, when he says, “We do not have clar­ity over how to help pmsky even af­ter a num­ber of meet­ings.”

Of­fi­cials also fear that de­spite the bat­tery of meet­ings, the min­istries are yet to find the right fo­cus.The ob­ser­va­tion is not com­pletely un­founded when one re­alises that in­stead of iron­ing the is­sues, the Cen­tre in­creased fund­ing to 5,300 crore this fi­nan­cial year

` and as­sessed to­tal out­lay for the next five years as 50,000 crore.

`

PMKSY has to pro­vide ir­ri­ga­tion fa­cil­i­ties to roughly 47 mil­lion hectares of farm­land

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