Modi’s Flagship Irrigation Scheme Has Been Substantially Watered Down

Over the last two years, actual and budgeted expenditure for the programme has fallen far short of the announced average expenditure of Rs 10,000 crore every year.

The initial Rs 10,000 crore per year allocation has been reduced to barely Rs 6,000 crore now. Credit: Reuters

The initial Rs 10,000 crore per year allocation has been reduced to barely Rs 6,000 crore now. Credit: Reuters

On July 1, 2015, the cabinet committee on economic affairs approved an irrigation scheme called the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (the Prime Minister’s Agricultural Irrigation Scheme, widely known by the abbreviations of its Hindi name PMKSY). This was approved for implementation as an all-India scheme with an outlay of Rs 50,000 crore for five years, or an average outlay of Rs 10,000 crore per year. 

This is now recognised as the most important all-India scheme for small and medium irrigation. Its slogans, ‘Har Khet Ko Pani ‘and ‘More Crop Per Drop’, have caught public imagination and one often hears these slogans, particularly the former, while visiting villages. But har khet ko pani or water for all farms is a formidable task in a country like India with its wide, if fragile farming base.

As this scheme completes two of its projected five years today, it is a good time to ask if the high hopes associated with it are being fulfilled in reality.

First off, it needs to be clarified that it is not an entirely new scheme but was formed by combining three already existing schemes of three different departments of the government of India – the ‘Accelerated Irrigation Benefit’ programme of the ministry of water resources, the ‘Integrated Watershed Management’ programme of the department of land resources and the ‘On Farm Management’ programme of the department of agriculture. All three schemes are desirable and relevant schemes. Some good work has been done under them and continues to be done. But if our objective is to find the contribution of the new scheme PMKSY then we need to find out how much was being allocated earlier under the three schemes and then compare this with the consolidated allocation or actual expenditure (where available) for PMKSY since 2015-16.

This requires that data taken from three departments should be added for the earlier years before comparisons with the new consolidated scheme can be taken up. Fortunately, this compilation and addition has already been done in a recent publication brought out by the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability. 

The relevant section of this table based on the data of three departments is given below.

Allocations or expenditure for PMKSY or component schemes

Year Amount in Rs Crore
2013-14 6905
2014-15 5580
2015-16 7781
2016-17 (BE) 5767
2016-17 (RE) 5182
2017-18 (BE) 7377

It is evident from the table above that in the first year of the reconstituted PMKSY (2015-16), programme expenditure was only marginally higher than in 2013-14. This expenditure fell far short of the announced average expenditure for every year – only Rs 7,781 crore in place of the announced per year average of Rs 10,000 crore for five years.

For the second year of this scheme (2016-17), the actual expenditure is not yet available so we have to be content with the budget estimate and the revised estimate. Here we see the shocking fact that for such a high priority and highly publicised scheme, the budget estimate for this year is actually significantly lesser than the actual expenditure three years ago in 2013-14. While the budget estimate this year was Rs 5,767 crore, the actual expenditure in 2013-14 was Rs 6,905 crore. So while the country was being told in a publicity blitz that har khet ko pani is being implemented in a big way, the reality was that the allocation for this had been reduced drastically compared to what had been actually spent three years back.

What’s more troubling is that when the revised estimates for this year were prepared, the allocation for this programme was further cut from Rs 5,767 crore to Rs 5,182 crore. This revised budget, moreover, was only 51% of the announced average allocation (Rs 10,000 crore ) for one year for this scheme.

For the current year 2017-18, in the budget estimate an allocation of Rs 7,377 crore has been made, which is 77% of the announced average allocation for one year for this scheme.

Thus, it is clear that the expenditure for one year and allocations for next two years are all much lower than the average annual budget announced for a five year period. Secondly, the revised estimate for 2016-17 is substantially less than the actual expenditure three years ago.

How can it be claimed that there has been progress with regard to irrigation when in fact resources are being reduced in a substantial manner? The actual reduction in 2016-17 is much higher in real terms when the impact of inflation is removed.

One sincerely hopes that the resources allocated for this programme will be significantly increased in the near future.

Bharat Dogra is a freelance journalist who has been involved with several social movements and initiatives.

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    Under – utilisation, unutilisation and mis- utilisation of funds allocated for irrigation sector is a major cause of problems in water availability to crops. This in turn causes failure of crops and leads to distress among farming community. The additional burden of debt further causes depression. Thus, this basic necessities in agriculture should be addressed immediately and this is the right time for review of policy