‘Achhe din’ for farmers : Govt starts 99 stalled irrigation projects worth ₹ 77,595 crore

Shri Arun Jaitley, in his union budget speech of 2016, had announced the starting of work on 99 key irrigation projects which were stalled since several years. These irrigation projects are medium and mega-irrigation projects which include construction of canals, building resevoirs and dams, and small canal structures to carry water to the fields. These 99 stalled irrigation projects cost ₹ 77,595 crore over a period of four years and will potentially bring 76 lakh hectare (1 hectare = 107639 square feet) of land under irrigation, most of them being drought-effected for successive years.

Most of the ninety-nine stalled irrigation projects on which work has started will benefit drought-prone areas of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Marathwada in Maharashtra, Telangana and areas of Andhra Pradesh. Once the projects are completed and dedicated to the nation, it will end the misery of farmers in these regions and put the droughts to a much needed end. Shri Narendra Modi has always kept agricultural reforms and improving the agricultural infrastructure as one of his key prioirties to find an effective & permanent solution to the woes of farmers. In the Union Budget 2016, for the first time, a long term irrigation fund of ₹ 20,000 crore was set up with an aim to make all the cultivable land accessible to irrigation. A slew of farmer-friendly initiatives were announced which aren’t short-term appeasements, but a concrete long-term plan to put a complete end to the problems faced by farmers.

The 99 projects that have been kickstarted by the government will be completed over a period of 4 years. The water resources ministry has set a target of completing 23 projects by 2017, 31 projects by 2018-19 and another 45 projects by 2019-20. Most of the projects were stalled due to various reasons such as lack of clearance, apathy of various state governments, financial issues and insensitivity of the previous government.

Last week, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi inaugurated the first phase of SAUNI (Saurashtra Narmada Avataran Irrigation Yojana) which will provide surplus water of river Narmada to the farmers of drought-prone Saurashtra. This was conceptualised by Narendra Modi in 2012 when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat and was completed in 2016. This irrigation project will provide 43,500 million cubic feet of Narmada’s surplus water to about 115 dams and smaller reservoirs for the purpose of irrigation. The first phase, which was inaugurated, provides water to 30 dams. The work on second, third and fourth phase has been sanctioned at a cost of ₹ 12,100 crore which will provide irrigation to 10 lakh acre land in Saurashtra region. Due to excellent work done by Narendra Modi as the CM of Gujarat, water of Narmada has reached many of the drought-prone regions in the state, thereby boosting crop output. The production of cotton has gone up by 370%, groundnut by 600% and wheat by 350%.

Once completed in the next 4-5 years, these 99 key irrigation projects will bring water to the drought-prone agricultural region of various parts of India and will boost agricultural output, substantially increase the income of farmers, put an end to the problem of farmer suicide, and most importantly usher an era of second green revolution.

Kshitij Mohan