The central government has approved a special assistance of Rs. 35,000 crore to help Maharashtra tide over the mess in its irrigation sector, an area where successive governments have been accused of misusing funds.
The funds will be diverted over a period of three years towards completion of 199 ongoing projects in the drought-affected areas of Marathwada and Vidarbha to double the State’s irrigated area to 126 lakh hectares from the existing 48 lakh ha, Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti announced during a review meeting of the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojna (PMKSY) and ongoing projects under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP) in Mumbai on Tuesday.In Vidarbha, Marathwada
Of the 132 shortlisted projects in drought-prone talukas, 98 are in Vidarbha and 34 in the districts of Marathwada, with each getting an assurance of Rs. 4,098 crore and Rs. 3,090 crore respectively. Another 67 projects are the drought prone area projects (DPAP) in the districts tha have witnessed several farmer suicides. “The centre also shortlisted another 26 projects under the PMKSY for a special assistance of Rs. 19,000 crore,” a senior official said.
Senior officials said they also pointed out to the Centre the desperate need to increase Maharashtra’s irrigation potential, currently pegged at a lowly 18 per cent. The State also requested central aid for completing the long-pending Ghosikhurd irrigation project and the Tapi recharge irrigation project.
The Centre also announced the setting up of a committee to look into the speedy approval for the Ghosikhurd project. “The performance of Maharashtra in the irrigation sector has been poor over the years, resulting in incidence of farmer suicides and scarcity situation such as the one seen in Latur recently,” Ms. Bharti said.
A proposal in this regard will soon be tabled before the union cabinet, first for the 26 projects under PMKSY in a 60:40 funding ratio, and later for the rest, officials said. The centre also assured to take up 67 drought prone area projects and Tapi-Mega Recharge Project on a priority basis. The State’s irrigation potential currently stands at lowly 17.9 per cent (2009-2010).