While the ministry of water resources says 33 irrigation projects among the 99 implemented on a priority basis under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) are ‘complete’ citing reports from state governments, data gathered by FE show that in as many as 74 projects, there has been absolutely no progress in the construction of field channels and drains (command area development). Without these last-mile facilities, the irrigation potential created can’t be tapped by farmers, so the funds spent on the projects virtually go to waste.
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched PMKSY in July 2015 and set the target to complete the 99 projects by December 2019, the total cost was estimated at Rs 77,595 crore, including Rs 29,000 crore for command area development.
(Among the PMKSY projects, the largest is Sardar Sarovar in Gujarat with an estimated cost of Rs 31,522 crore). Currently, only 49% of the agricultural land in the country is irrigated.
According to a progress report of 39 projects (along with the command area) with the agriculture ministry reviewed by FE (in the case of all but one of the remaining projects, it has little information as the states haven’t shared the project reports with it), even among these projects, command area development hasn’t started at all in case of 15, while in another 12, the development is less than 50%.
According to the guidelines for PMKSY, the motto of which is ‘Har Khet Ko Paani’ (water for every agricultural land by providing end-to-end solutions in irrigation supply chain), the completion of a project includes development of command area besides the main canal and its branches.
In many cases, the states seem to show little or lukewarm interest in command area projects. In one project in Punjab (Kotla branch), for instance, the state government has decided not to further develop the command area after about 60% progress in the construction work.
“Most of the states are not ready for command area development as it requires land acquisition and small farmers are reluctant to part with their lands. State governments do not want to get into this controversial issue because of its political implications,” a government official said.
Water resources minister Nitin Gadkari had in March expressed concern over non-utilisation of funds for command area projects and said that the overall purpose of Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme would be defeated if these facilities are not set up.
In the absence of command area development, farmers in the tail-end on both the sides of the main canal take water from it by using pump sets, which increases their costs and leads to wastage of water. Small farmers, who could not afford additional costs, solely depend on the command area to take the water into their fields.
The expenditure on command area infrastructure is shared by the Centre and the state concerned on a 6:4 basis. According to sources, some states have agreed to start the construction of command area, but asked for more funds from the Centre. The water resources ministry, the sources added, is considering rolling out a scheme that will encourage states to implement these projects.
The Centre launched a long-term irrigation fund under Nabard in 2016 with an initial corpus of Rs 20,000 crore, which was doubled in 2017-18, targeting to complete the 99 irrigation projects to bring an additional 7.6 million hectare under the irrigation map. About 68 million hectares are irrigated now, with water flowing in from canals, tanks, ponds, tubewells and other sources.