Millennium Post

Misguided expenditure?

A senior Union Minister said that the Centre will use various schemes such as the Rs 80,000-crore Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP) and around Rs 20,000 crore under the Pradhan Mantri Sinchai Yojana for the purpose.

 "Two crore hectares can be irrigated and agriculture production could be doubled through agriculture schemes including Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme, for which a provision of Rs 80,000 crore has been made in the budget," the Union Minister said. 

Of the land cultivable in the country, only 46 percent receive adequate irrigation at present. In his Budget speech earlier this year, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced that the Centre would spend Rs 86,500 crore—quadrupling annual spending—over the next five years to irrigate 80 million hectares of cultivated land.

 The government has its work cut out since it is promising to irrigate more land in five years than it has in the 69 years since Independence. But according to a recent IndiaSpend analysis, Finance Minister Jaitley is wasting the government’s money by spending Rs 86,500 crore on AIBP, which has yielded below par results. According to the 2015-16 Economic Survey, of the irrigation capacity created by the AIBP during 2007-11, only a third of farmland actually got water. 

Even the Comptroller Auditor General of India has marked the inadequacies of the AIBP. “The Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme has failed to achieve its targeted objective of accelerating completion of large irrigation projects and delivery of benefits of irrigation water to farmers,” the CAG report said. 

The crisis afflicting India’s agrarian sector is immense. It will require multiple solutions. Although, the Centre has acknowledged the crisis, the solutions it has presented may not suffice. Until then, the average Indian farmer will remain susceptible to the vagaries of weather, despite the prediction of an above average monsoon.

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