NEW DELHI: The unprecedented drought in 9 states — at the beginning of April itself — poses the biggest challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi who recently launched several farmer-centric initiatives to ensure drought-proof agriculture in a bid to provide fresh impetus to the economy.
As per a note submitted to the Prime Minister by a panel of secretaries, only 45 per cent area is irrigated in the country and there is a 23 per cent gap between irrigation potential created and utilised. The top bureaucrats listed major problems being faced in dealing with drought and observed that funds allocated to increase irrigation capacity remain negligible.
Though irrigation is a state subject, the babus noted that the centrally-assisted project, Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP), to push a large number of major and medium irrigation projects, which are beyond the resource capability of the states, is allocated marginal funds. The note pointed out that in order to accelerate the implementation of 46 projects, the government requires Rs 29,000 crore but that only Rs 3,000 crore had been allocated under the AIBP.
The bureaucrats suggested creation of a dedicated fund in the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) to meet the challenge of drought and also recommended that the Madhya Pradesh model of Web-based monitoring of utilisation of irrigated area be replicated along with developing space applications for validating utilisation of the potential created. The Prime Minister, in his recent Mann ki Baat, had suggested the use of technology and water conservation to increase agricultural productivity.
The note observed that immediate measures will help in creation of 1.1 million hectare of additional irrigation potential in one year and 3.4 million over the next 3 years. The bureaucrats also flagged poor conservation of rain water in the country. They suggested that 5 lakh ponds and wells could be dug every year under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) that will cost Rs 8,000 crore.
Another suggestion, which has been put forward is to launch 2 lakh solar pump-sets with micro-irrigation where a farmer’s contribution would be just 5% with the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy providing 30% subsidy while the rest 65% cost could be accessed as loan from the Power Company.