If Prime Minister’s vision of “har khet ko pani” (water to every field), and “per drop, more crop” is to be achieved within a reasonable time frame, one needs to look at the economics of agriculture (its productivity and profitability) with a different lens, the paper said.
Even as India is witnessing severe water shortage and depleting water tables in its different states, agriculture alone is consuming over three-fourths of the its fresh water resources. The inefficient agricultural practices followed in India especially and misdirected government policies are aggravating India’s grave water crisis, Ashok Gulati and Gayathri Mohan wrote in the paper titled, “Towards sustainable, productive and profitable agriculture: Cases of rice and sugarcane”.
“The price-based subsidy existing for inputs at present must shift to income-directed policies, wherein the input subsidies/benefits must be directly transferred to the farmer’s account rather than getting reflected in the price of the particular input,” the paper said.
The water-intensive crops must be shifted to the regions where the natural resource is in abundant supply, paper said. “More than 60 per cent of water available for agriculture use in the country is diverted towards irrigating two water guzzler crops, rice and sugarcane, having a share of just 24 percent in gross cropped area, the report added.
“If Prime Minister’s vision of “har khet ko pani” (water to every field), and “per drop, more crop” is to be achieved within a reasonable time frame, one needs to look at the economics of agriculture (its productivity and profitability) with a different lens,” the paper also said.
Grim situation in Punjab, Haryana
The situation is getting further grim in states like Punjab where farmers are getting free power and assured paddy procurement mechanism from state government. The farmers in the state remain fixated with cultivation of rice due to near-total irrigation. It has been seen that in states such as Bihar and West Bengal grow rice with much less water in comparison to Punjab. In the same way farmers in Maharashtra, despite the state’s very low irrigation coverage that nears around 18 percent, choose water-guzzling sugarcane over other crops like cotton, tur and groundnut which produce higher value of output per unit of irrigation water.