PM’s Irrigation Scheme Struggling, Only 10% Projects Complete

Despite the agrarian crisis that India is reeling under, the parliamentary standing committee noted that the government’s efforts in implementing irrigation projects has been ‘lethargic’.

New Delhi: A report of the parliamentary standing committee on rural development has revealed that only 10% of the projects taken up under the watershed development component of the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) have been completed. The report outlines that given that a majority of the sown area in India is rain fed, and thus at the mercy of the monsoon, urgent efforts ought to be taken to address irrigation concerns.

In July 2017, the committee had found that none of the projects under the scheme had been completed and had come down strongly on the Department of Land Resources (DLR), which is responsible for the implementation. The committee had noted at the time that, to its ‘utter dismay’, not a single project of the 8,214 projects had been complete. The DLR then reported to the committee that after April 2017, 849 projects in 11 states had been completed – 10% of the total projects sanctioned.

Irrigation is crucial to India’s agriculture as the percentage of net irrigated area to total crop area is only 34.5%, according to the latest available data from 2014-15. This makes the Indian farmer reliant on the monsoon. The 8,214 projects under the PMKSY worth Rs 50,740 crores are aimed at reducing the reliance of farmers on monsoon rains.

Despite the agrarian crisis that India is reeling under with real rural wages declining, real rural wage growth declining and gross value added in agriculture declining, the government’s efforts in implementing irrigation projects has been ‘lethargic’, according the standing committee.

The DLR also reported to the standing committee that by September 2017, 1,257 projects under the PMKSY had not even completed the initial step of preparing the detailed project reports (DPR). This prompted the standing committee to note, “After such an inordinate delay whereby most of the projects ought to have been completed till now, such lack of alacrity on the part of DLR is not at all acceptable.”

Recently, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, also pointed out that despite spending Rs 13,000 crore, none of the five key irrigation projects it evaluated were ‘near completion’. According to the CAG, in these five projects, 14.53 lakh hectare irrigation potential has been created but a mere 5.36 lakh hectare (37%) irrigation potential is being utilised. Eleven other projects with an estimated irrigation potential of 10.48 lakh hectare are yet to commence.

“Lack of adequate and effective monitoring and timely action to deal with breaches and damages to created infrastructure both contributed to the poor progress of works as well as inadequate maintenance of assets already created,” the CAG noted.