CHIEF Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Union Water Resources Minister Nitin Gadkari Friday assured that they will together complete the long-pending Gosikhurd project by 2019. They were speaking at the inauguration of Agrovision, an agriculture expo patronised by Gadkari.
The ninth annual expo was inaugurated by Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu, who also e-launched the right bank canal of the project and the Nerla Lift Irrigation Scheme on it. “It is unfortunate that the project launched 34 years ago by then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi couldn’t be completed even today. Immediately after becoming Water Resources Minister, I released Rs 750 crore for the project and we have decided to complete it by 2019,” Gadkari said.
The dam is situated in Bhandara district in east Vidarbha and is Vidarbha’s biggest irrigation project with a capacity to irrigate over 2.5 lakh hectares in Bhandara, Nagpur and Chandrapur districts.
Gadkari said, “Agrovision has been providing valuable guidance to thousands of farmers from across the state in best and cost-effective agricultural practices. My endeavour would be to provide irrigation to most farmers in Vidarbha, which I believe will put an end to farmers’ suicides.”
Gadkari announced that his ministry is devising a Rs 6,000-crore World Bank-aided scheme to increase irrigation potential in various states by funding small water conservation projects like wells, farm ponds, and barrages. He also said, “Rs 25,000 crore will be spent on two major river-linking projects between Maharashtra and Gujarat to be launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi within three months. Also, the Centre will provide Rs 10,000 crore to suicide-affected districts of Vidarbha to improve the farmers’ lot.”
Gadkari said, “Farmers land in trouble when prices of their produce go down. The Centre is planning to increase import duty on oilseeds and pulses to help farmers get better prices.”
In a major announcement, Gadkari said, “We have decided to carry irrigation water through pipelines instead of canals in future.”
CM Fadnavis claimed that in three years, his government has brought growth rate of agriculture from negative to positive and currently it stands at 12.5 per cent. The CM also said, “We are embarking on converting electric feeders to farms into solar feeders, which will provide continuous water supply to farms by eliminating load-shedding.”
He said his government would bring in regulations to control the sale and use of pesticides, believed to have caused deaths of many farmers in Vidarbha. Naidu called for greater focus on agriculture than industry and a multi-pronged approach to improve agriculture. “It is a shame that farmers have to commit suicide. All parties have had governments in states and the Centre and all must take the blame. Farmers have become aware of their rights and are also protesting. But there should be no violence and politics over it. Maximum focus should be on agriculture because unlike industry, agriculture is an unorganised sector with maximum population dependent on it and the farmers cannot decide the price of their own produce.”