Fact Check: How Many Irrigation Projects Has the Modi Government Completed?

The 99 projects figure is often waved around, but only 31 have actually been completed, with the actual irrigation potential much less than what was targeted.

New Delhi: On February 7, 2019, while speaking in parliament, Narendra Modi appeared to indicate that his government had inaugurated 99 irrigation projects during its term.

Publicly available data, however, shows that this is not true.  

What exactly did Modi say? According to the official transcript of the parliament debate, he said:

Aaj aapko Pradhan Mantri Sinchayee Yohana se takleef ho rahi thi. 99 sinchayee yojnayen thin. Jaise maine kaha humare yahan Nehru ji ne ek patthar dala tha aur maine jakar uska udghathan kiya. 99 aise yojanayen, jo latki padi thin, hazaron crore rupay kharch karke un yojanaon ko pura karne ka kaam humne kiya hai.

(Today, you had difficulties with the Pradhan Mantri Sinchayee Yojana. There were 99 such projects. Like I said, Nehru ji had laid one stone, I went and did the inauguration. 99 such projects, which were stuck, we have spent thousands of crores to do the work to complete those projects).” [English translation by The Wire]

According to the data on status of progress available on the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) website, progress under the scheme has been slow. Thirty-one projects had been completed by June 2018.

Another 32 projects are listed as ‘to be completed by June 2019’ and 43 are ‘to be completed by December 2019’.

“According to the government’s own data, 31 projects have been completed,” said Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, who pointed out the discrepancy on the network’s website.

“It is clear what Narendra Modi is saying in the Parliament. He is saying that ‘we have done the work of completing all these 99 projects through expenditure of thousands of crores of rupees’,” Thakkar added.

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Interestingly, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections also concedes that the government has only been able to complete 31 irrigation projects – and 68 remain incomplete.  

“There is no doubt that the irrigation scheme has not worked,” said Yogendra Yadav, psephologist and Swaraj India leader. “One also needs to see which 99 projects these were. They had handpicked 99 of the projects that were relatively doable. But not even half of those have been completed.”

According to a January 2017 ‘road map of PMKSY’ prepared by the NITI Aayog, of the 149 projects approved for Central assistance, 99 had been ‘prioritised’ for implementation under PMKSY ‘as these can be completed in a period of 2 to 3 years’.

However, as of now, it seems unlikely that the December 2019 deadline for completing all the 99 projects will be met.

The Telegraph reported, in December 2018, that of the 99 projects, field canals had not been constructed for 74.

The PMKSY website shows that only 27% of the targeted irrigation potential had been created by June 2018 under the scheme. The irrigation potential created is less than 60% of the target in 38 projects under PMKSY.

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A 2018 Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report analysed the performance of 105 major and medium irrigation (MMI) projects between 2008 and 2017. It found that only 68% of the targeted irrigation potential had been created in the ten-year period. Of that irrigation potential created, only 65% was actually being utilised.

Of the 118 projects, 105 had been delayed by as much as 18 years. The delays have resulted in a cost escalation of Rs 120 lakh crore. The report also found that there was diversion of funds to the tune of Rs 1,500 crore.

Last year, a report of the parliamentary standing committee on rural development found the watershed development component of PMKSY to also be unsatisfactory. Only 10% of the projects had been completed at the time the report was compiled.

Irrigation is crucial for India, where 60% of agriculture is rain-fed and dependent on the four-month period of the southwest monsoon. According to the Economic Survey of 2017-18, the percentage of net irrigated area to total crop area is only 34.5%.