Agony of Drought : Time for Reformulating Policies
I am firmly of the view that money, being spent over water goes into the water and in the same manner money spent over soil, just get spoiled. The history of corruption in India has been evident of this,fact that the most of the public corruption started in the country were from the several irrigation and water project which were one of the prime development agendas of India's first Prime minister Pt. Nehru. Talking about soil filling work, those contractors, who get contract of earth work, they feel more joyous, because they know they will be easily getting major share of allocated money for this work as their earning. There was a time, while forming of any ministry, irrigation ministry used to be great in demand. Only because , in the name of infrastructure, it were being allocated more money during that time and second it has more safe scope of making corruption over this. Fact is that money spent over water and soil is difficult to measure and audit both, particularly at the calamity conditions.
The reason behind raising of this issue is, our country is facing a kind of perennial crisis in agriculture. Because, Sometime we have drought, sometime we have flood, sometime we have snowball falling and sometime we have cyclone and tsunami. However, despite the consistent expenses of money over several big or small irrigation and water management projects, we hardly have one third crop area in the country, which has come under the irrigation network. Our rest 60 percent of non-irrigated cultivable land is dependent over seasonal rain. Thing is that, not only our un irrigated land, but also those irrigated land, they also are dependent over rain fall. Rainfall still has no alternative. The reality is that, artificial irrigation is not the ultimate solution to the cultivation.
Right now, our country is facing severe drought in all those areas of country, which are generally termed as arid zones. States like Rajasthan, Saurashtra region in Gujrat, Vidarbha and Marathwada in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra are always having drought prone tendency. Here, the comprehensive management of all available water resources is very important. In these areas, the total available source of water and the total stored quantity as well as the demand need of the water, these both have to be brought under equilibrium. If there is any imbalances between both situation, as we are witnessing now in almost 8 states of the country, we are left with following remedies of this situation. First solution of this disguised in its long term solution, that is making of a national river link project. The medium term solution is to make reservoirs in the nearby areas through water conservation & application of harvesting technology and third one, which is short and urgent terms solution, that is to avail water through wagons and tankers and cleaning of reservoir water at least for drinking purpose.
The long terms solution was first thought out during Vajyayee led NDA-1 regime when national river link project was drafted which had cost of around 5 lakh crore then, but unfortunately during UPA -1 & 2, this plan idea was kept in just scrap basket. Talking about the medium term solution, which is over water harvesting, both centre and states have started many schemes for this, somewhere a separate ministry has been also formed named as 'minor irrigation ministry'. However, fact is that, despite lots of effort done over water harvesting and conservation fronts, barring some few areas, we can not be able to raise the water level as well as the storage capacity in the nearby areas, which ultimately could not able to provide relief during the drought situation. The reason behind this, there is no certified and claimed technology for this, which has come in our technology domain. Generally these kind of initiatives are being advised by water NGOs or by the water activist of country, but ultimately it has been found that this sort of initiatives have consumed lots of public money. In these circumstances, we are left with only one big option, that is the laying out of national river link project, but that is difficult to do in urgent manner. We have to understand this fact, our all parts of country are not stricken with water scarcity. There are some parts of the country, which has abundance of water. In states like Bihar, Asam, Uttaranchal, there is abundance of water, which generally being convert into floods during the rainy season.
States like J&K, Himachal and Sikkim are covered with many glaciers and snow mountains. If, these all water is channelized into one nation wide water grid, then we never have shortages of water across all arid zones of the country. Our past work over water management has proved this fact that country spoiled huge amount of money over all sorts of water management, whether it is making of irrigation project, whether its making of canals and channels, whether it is making of dams over the river, whether it is the cleaning of river or whether it is making of embankment besides the river in order to control floods. It has only filled the pockets of corrupt politicians, engineers and contractors. Most of the river valley projects were found economically not feasible. Its cost and return always have disequilibrium between them. So, the better policy is not to interfere with the natural status of the water, air and sunlight. We can only reshuffle it, but we can not change the course of nature. If we have any hindrance factor in terms of environment in order to getting timely rain, that should be off course checked out.
Second for the irrigation and drinking water purpose, we need only easy available and low cost hydro technology to avail water, otherwise teasing environment with crores of money in order to avail water and irrigation will not fructify and give us any permanent result. In place of this, we need to hugely employ dry land farming plan all across the arid zones of the country. Second, we need to nurture all available substitute and replacement for the profession of cultivation; in form of establishing khadi units, small and tiny industries like that. Dairy, forestry and fisheries, which are regarded as allied activities of agriculture, but these have to also suffer in the absence of water. Nurturing animal husbandry, forestry and dairy is also a difficult task, because these all need fodder, which is imposible to grow without water. Fact is that agriculture, animal husbandry and forestry, these both complements each other. Out of these if one is failed, it affects its counterpart profession also. Therefore, we need huge investment over all kind of rural technology, which can avail various avenues of manufacturing, employment and income generation activities in the rural areas.
In order to address the immediate crisis of agriculture and averting the pitiable condition of rural livings, we seriously need to relook our all relief and disaster management operations. It is very necessary to spread more and more construction activity at the time of drought and calamity. Here MGNREGA kind of scheme has utility. If, MGNREGA is being converted into program like rural infrastructure program after clubbing it with all existing rural program like PMGSY, PMSRY, IAY, FS etc. and if, we invest these total allocated money, which is to be around 1 lakh crore every year on various social and physical infrastructure in rural areas in terms of construction of roads, schools, hospital, community hall, solar panels, ponds, wells, water pump, power house, forestation and pension for all socially vulnerable sections, crop loss compensation etc; it will be rated as more meaningful exercise, rather investing it over construction of mud built channels and earth roads, which do not last even a season. The changed form of MGNREGA, firstly would enhance the purchasing power of the needy people by availing of employment opportunities through various infrastructure development and on the other hand, it will laid down adequate infra assets in the rural areas, which will further galvanize the development process there. Until now MGNREGA money is being spent over water and soil which used to go into water and soil and the enrolment register is just being maintained as per the negotiation between the village head and MGNREGA workers.
Lastly, we need to fundamentally reformulate our agriculture policy, which is more tilted towards availing subsidized agro input. This sort of policy has been aggravating corruption and making farmers' economic condition on pitiable note more.
Now the time has come to frame agriculture policy on following parameters---
1. We need to bring big pricing reform in agriculture
a. To ensure cost plus MSP price to the all agro commodities.i. all food grains and pulses ii. All horticulture items vegetables and fruits iii. All dairy items IV. All oilseeds and spices after genuinely assessing their cost of all inputs.
b. Make the agriculture fully risk free after employing a comprehensive agr. crop insurance scheme with all India coverage
c. Govt. must scrap PDS in general and use it only during calamity condition and for the remote tribal areas and use FCI, NAFED and other organization as the marketing intervening agencies, who will purchase all ago items on MSP price during season period in order to ensure pricing safety of the farmers and checking prices of agro commodities from further being fallen due to the over supply in the season period. These procured items will be stored by these agencies with their warehousing infrastructure and they will release these all items in the open market during off-season period. This will provide price safety to the consumers also. These intervening agencies must work in such a manner so that they can provide price safety to both producers and consumers.
d. We need to confiscate a minimum and maximum MSP price for the procurement , as well as for the open market price during off season period.
e. This policy will make agriculture a surplus profession for the farmers, as well as save the huge food subsidy, which can be used for the direct welfare of the poor.
f. Govt. must promote ready made meal schemes for the both urban and rural poor and must provide them food allowances with their pension
2. We need to make registeration of all labor population on each village level and they must be given employment, skill training in all infrastructure development related programs.
3. In all calamity relief operation, no tolerance to corruption must be strictly followed.