The government is planning to widen the ambit of its flagship irrigation scheme, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY), to include cash crops such as coffee, tea and rubber, along with other crops, to help millions of farmers dependent on them, official sources told FE. Currently, the plantation crops are not extended benefits under the PMKSY, which was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs in July 2015 after merging various extant irrigation schemes and was allocated R50,000 crore over a five-year period through 2019-20.
The commerce ministry, which is the administrative authority of boards regulating plantation crops, has strongly been advocating the coverage of such crops under the PMKSY. In fact, commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman held meetings with water resources minister Uma Bharti and agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh to drum up support for the proposal, said one of the sources. Both the agriculture and water resources ministries are learnt to be in concurrence with the commerce ministry now.
A notification for this purpose is expected soon, said the sources. “With climate change emerging as a major threat, the growing regions of cash crops also need solid irrigation facilities. Due to erratic weather, tea production in Coonoor region alone was down by 20% (in 2015-16),” said one of the sources.
The government has stepped up efforts to boost irrigation through the PMKSY, as just 46.9% of the country’s total cropped areas are irrigated. Around 84% of pulses, 80% of horticulture, 72% of oilseeds, 64% of cotton and 42% of cereals are cultivated in rain-fed areas. Such a situation has made Indian agriculture heavily susceptible to vagaries of monsoon.
According to the agriculture ministry, 2.85 million ha will be brought under irrigation for which R5,717 crore under the PMKSY has been earmarked for 2016-17, compared with R2,340 crore in the last fiscal.
While there is no rule prohibiting inclusion of the cash crops in the PMKSY, the coverage under the scheme, nevertheless, is limited to just traditional crops. This is perhaps because it’s generally assumed that incomes to producers from such so-called cash crops are usually higher than those from other traditional crops such as paddy, wheat or pulses. So such producers are more capable of setting up their own irrigation facilities themselves. However, roughly 90% of the country’s tea producers are small and marginal ones, having individual holding of 5 ha or less. The condition is not much different in case of coffee as well.
The stated objective of the PMKSY is to “achieve the convergence of investments in irrigation at the field level, expand cultivable area under assured irrigation, improve on-farm water use efficiency to reduce wastage, enhance adoption of precision-irrigation and other water saving technologies (more crop per drop), enhance recharge of aquifers and introduce sustainable water conservation practices by exploring the feasibility of re-using treated municipal waste water for peri-urban agriculture and attract greater private investment in precision irrigation system”.
PMKSY was formulated, amalgamating earlier schemes such as the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme of the ministry of water resources, Integrated Watershed Management Programme of the department of land resources and On Farm Water Management component of the National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture of the agriculture ministry.