The sum set aside for Jalayagnam in the budget has been fixed at Rs. 13,800 cr. as against Rs. 15,010 cr. of the current fiscal
Priority assigned to Jalayagnam irrigation projects appears to have been toned down, if the allocation cut made in the 2013-14 budget to this prestigious water programme is any indication.
While allocation to Jalayagnam rose by 5 to 10 per cent annually right from 2005 when it was launched, it has been slashed by Rs. 1,210 crore now. The sum set aside for Jalayagnam in the budget is fixed at Rs. 13,800 crore as against Rs. 15,010 crore of the current fiscal.
The downsizing of the irrigation budget like this at a time when the government held out repeated assurances to complete all the 82 projects taken up at a cost of Rs. 1.85 lakh crore to irrigate 97 lakh acres and stabilise 22.5 lakh acres of existing ayacut, comes as a surprise to officials and political leaders. MLAs and Ministers kept on providing a rosy picture to the people in their areas about the final benefits of the projects.
Their confusion is compounded because the government, time and again, made announcements prioritising 50 medium and major projects, for completion by 2014-end. And they would require Rs. 16,000 crore for completion. They are also distressed that many villages will continue to reel under drought without the water expected from the completed projects. Supply of drinking water to about 2.54 crore population at 6,553 villages in the State has been planned under Jalayanam.
Project-specific allocations are such that some MLAs termed as “pittance” the allocations set aside for giant Polavaram and Pranahita-Chevella compared to their huge estimated costs—Rs. 16,010 crore and Rs 38,500 crore respectively. With a view to satisfying the people both Seemandhra and Telangana regions, the government is making war-footing effort to get national status for them. In case of Pranahita-Chevella, a major inter-State hurdle has been cleared as Andhra Pradesh government had signed an agreement with Maharashtra on this.
Jalayagnam is already in a jeopardy because only a sum of Rs. 7,257 crore is spent so far out of Rs. 15,010 crore allocation made in the 2012-13 budget, even with only nine days to go before the close of the fiscal.
This is in spite of the pressing need to clear the bills presented by the contractors for completed works.
“On the other hand, contractors are adopting several tricks to delay the works to claim escalated costs. This is another headache,” an official said.