To be dug in eight delta districts at a cost of Rs. 181 crore
At a time when the State, particularly Cauvery delta region, is in the midst of a drought, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) has come in handy for the government to order the creation of 15,000 farm ponds in eight delta districts.
The ponds are to be dug on lands of agriculturists who belong to the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes; the category of small and marginal farmers and other groups approved under the scheme.
Wrapping up the debate in the Assembly on the Governor’s address in early February, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had announced that Rs. 181 crore would be sanctioned for the project.
As of now, work on 1,426 ponds has begun and in respect of the remaining ponds, it will begin in a matter of time, say officials at the Commissionerate of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (RD&PR). As per the plan, by the end of May, the target - 15,000 ponds – will be achieved.
Making it clear that the project would have to be carried out through 100 per cent labour component of the scheme, an order issued by the State RD & PR Department last month reiterated that no machinery would be allowed.
Beneficiary-land owners should be job card holders and only registered workers could be employed. Social audit through the respective gram sabhas would be an integral feature and the maintenance of the ponds would rest with the beneficiary-households.
Regarding the capacity of farm ponds, the officials say the department is for building deeper ponds to minimise the use of farm land and evaporation loss.
Regarding the permissible number of ponds per farmer, an official explains that the critical issue is the ceiling of Rs. 1.5 lakh for every beneficiary. Nothing stops anyone to have more than one pond on the land of a beneficiary-farmer provided the entire work can be completed within the amount of Rs. 1.5 lakh.