‘Agri output to double with 80k-cr irrigation scheme’
Terming severe water crisis in 11 states as the main cause behind farmers’ plight, the Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Minister said irrigation schemes were being fast-tracked to provide relief to the agrarian community.
“Two crore hectares of land can be irrigated and agriculture production could be doubled through agriculture schemes including Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP)for which a provision of Rs 80,000 crore has been made in the budget,” Gadkari said addressing a workshop on ‘Liberating the Farmers from Death Trap’ here.
Besides the AIBP for 89 projects, a provision of Rs 20,000 crore has been made under Pradhan Mantri Sinchai Yojana. Maharashtra s 28 projects are included in the AIBP, the minister said.
Admitting that farmers’ suicide was a sorry state of affairs, he said the Centre was committed to addressing their problems and bring more cultivable areas under irrigation.
Presently, only 46 per cent of the cultivable area is irrigated. As far as loans were concerned, the minister said a provision of Rs 9 lakh crore in the priority sector lending was made for agriculture sector only. Crop insurance scheme will also provide relief to farmers, he said.
The minister said drip irrigation was also the need of the hour as dependence on rains was not the solution. He said Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Odisha are facing water crisis.
Irrigation percentage was the highest in Punjab at over 96 per cent and lowest in Jharkhand at 5.6 per cent.
Unfortunately, the issue of subsidy was opposed by bureaucracy earlier, he said adding that a meagre budget by the UPA government for agriculture was also responsible for the problem.
Instead of spending a huge Rs 70,000 crore to buy aircraft, the previous regime could have taken steps to ensure water availability in villages and that could have prevented farmers’ suicide, Gadkari said.
He also rued that while a small state like Telangana had set aside over Rs 27,000 crore for irrigation, Maharashtra has earmarked only over Rs 8,000 crore. Stressing the need for wide-scale cash crop cultivation in the country to augment economy, the minister said trial of cultivating olive in Rajasthan has been successful and should be done at a large-scale.
He also advocated for pulses cultivation across the country instead of conventional crops like wheat and paddy to improve the condition of farmers.This will result in huge savings on edible oil imports as India imports edible oil worth Rs 1.3 lakh crore, he said.
Besides, he stressed the need for cross breeding of certain varieties of cows like Sahiwal and Gir which were popular in Brazil, to enhance milk production.
Farmers could also take to sericulture, the minister said, and added that second generation ethanol production was also being encouraged besides bamboo cultivation, fisheries and honey production.
Ethanol production could cut on huge crude oil import bill which is to the tune of Rs 8 lakh crore, he said. Also, he said after declaration of 111 national waterways, his ministry was committed to deepen the draft in rivers so that not only trade and industry gets a boost but also the rain water could be absorbed.
He said the budget for these rivers has only been Rs 18,000 crore but Rs one lakh crore worth of work would be done as the funds could easily be generated.
At present, he said, 70 per cent of the water went to sea while remaining 10-15 per cent went to lakes and dams leaving only about 15 per cent water for conservation.
At the same time he said India would be able to save Rs 45,000 crore per annum on urea if it sets up a plant at Chabahar in Iran, negotiations for which are on to get gas on lower price.
Iran, Gadkari said, has cheap natural gas and talks are on to get gas at less than $ 2 per mmBtu.