The Idukki package announced to mitigate agrarian distress in the district is in limbo.

The Rs.764.45-crore package was prepared by agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan against the background of fall in prices of commodities and suicide of farmers in the district. It was approved by the Union Cabinet in November 2008. However, main works under the project are yet to take off owing to objections by the Union Ministry of Rural Development.

The package proposed action for reviving ecological security, strengthening common facilities, and enhancement of the livelihood security of the farmers with crop-specific programmes. This was in addition to waiver of their loans. However, road works have emerged as the biggest component of the package with an outlay of Rs.260 crore.

The district administration had prepared the project report for integrated development of the rural roads in the district in 2008. The Rural Development Ministry included the project under the Prime Minister's Gram Sadak Yojana and insisted upon low slope ratios and minimum width of eight metres for the roads. Considering the difficulty in acquiring so much land, the administration had sought waiver of the norms and reduction of the minimum width to six metres.

Though two years have passed since the approval of the package, the Ministry is yet to communicate its decision on the matter.

Initially, 574 rural roads were to be developed in three phases. However, newly elected MP from Idukki P.T. Thomas wanted some more roads to be included in the package. This caused some delays. Meanwhile, there is some concern as to whether construction of a large road network is in tune with the proposal to revive the district's ecological security. (Road access to forests was one of the main reasons for plunder of forests, deforestation and forest fires in the district.) However, the roads are proposed to connect tribal hamlets to the market so that the produce can be easily transported.

Next to roads, the highest allocation is for cardamom — Rs.120 crore. However, the cardamom sector has experienced a revival recently following a steep price increase. A sum of Rs.90 crore each has been allocated for soil conservation and animal husbandry. Rs.80 crore is earmarked for pepper.

The remaining allocations are mainly for programmes to be undertaken by the commodity boards.

  • Union Ministry raises objections to to road project
  • M.S. Swaminathan prepared the ambitious package