Fast-track irrigation projects to power rural growth: Jaitley
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Monday made a strong pitch for working on irrigation projects to fuel economic growth of rural India and meet the Centre's target to double income of farmers over the next few years.
Speaking during the inaugural session of fourth 'India Water Week', Jaitley noted that irrigation projects, vis- -vis infrastructure projects, bring "immediate results" in terms of growth and promised that the the Centre will help state governments in such efforts they "alone cannot fight the challenges" posed by erratic weather conditions among others. "And the objective of the entire exercise is, even when you have adverse monsoon conditions, the rain-fed areas don't starve, they still have and they do have benefit of good agricultural crop. And that is going to be the essence.
"You will have a contribution being made by agriculture to India's economy and therefore, one of our basic targets today is to make sure the income of our rural population doubles over next few years. If that is to double, these are the various instruments including irrigation that we are using to make sure resources are fed into the rural areas," Jaitley said. Jaitley observed that the past two years were "most challenging" due to "less than adequate" monsoon, which he noted, resulted in "very marginal" growth of economy. The Minister stated that the trend had its impact on services and manufacturing sector as it impacted the purchasing power of India's 55 per cent population and underscored the need for conserving water and creation of irrigation projects to tackle such situation.
While noting that irrigation is "strictly" a state subject, Jaitley said the Centre will help states in completing such projects for ensuring availability of water. During his speech, Jaitley also lauded BJP-ruled states such Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh for their irrigation projects for dry areas and agricultural growth attained thereby. "Investment in irrigation almost gets you immediate result. If you create physical infrastructures in terms of highways, roads, railways, ports, airports, power, before it can contribute to growth and manufacturing, it will take a couple of seasons before the impact is seen. "Irrigation is one area if you invest in irrigation now, and create a facility you almost get the impact in next season. And therefore, the states which have invested in irrigation have actually added to the growth process," he said. He said the Centre has made its contribution toward improving and creating irrigation infrastructure and said NABARD has been asked to create sufficient funds for large projects, while efforts are being made under Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sichai Yojana to fast track completion of unfinished works by 2017.
The Finance Minister also stated that Indian economy is doing "reasonably well" as far service sector is concerned. He said that even though there is a demand problem world over, the manufacturing sector is "slowly picking up".
The session was also attended by Union Ministers Uma Bharti, Birender Singh, Radha Mohan Singh, Prakash Javadekar, Sanwar Lal Jat, Israel's Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel and the Chief Minister of India's central state Madhya Pradesh Shivraj Singh Chouhan.