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The Maharashtra government has decided to hold direct negotiations with farmers to acquire land for irrigation projects across the state. Work on ongoing irrigation projects remains sluggish, blamed primarily on delay in land acquisition from farmers or landowners in villages.
The government’s concern relates to projects where 75 per cent of the work has already been completed. The state has pursued with the Centre for completion of 199 irrigation projects in a time-bound manner. It includes 132 projects in drought-prone talukas. As many as 67 projects are in talukas that have recorded the maximum number of farmers’ suicides in the last 15 years.
For its part, the Centre has responded positively, promising to accord priority to projects in drought-prone Vidarbha and Marathwada that will require a Rs 9,500-crore financial aid. A Rs 21,000-crore package for 26 irrigation projects under the Pradhan Mantri Sinchan Yojana is still being scrutinised.
In another move, the water resources ministry wants the government to remove the technicalities that make it mandatory for the five irrigation corporations to make the payment for land acquired to the ministry of revenue in the state government.
A senior official in the department said, “We have irrigation projects under five umbrellas — Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC); Godavari Maharashtra Irrigation Development Corporation (GMIDC); Tapi Irrigation Development Corporation (TIDC); Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation (KIDC); and Maharashtra Krishna Valley Development Corporation (MKVDC).”
The department, however, believes the corporation is also an entity that comes under the state government. Therefore, it feels, why should the various corporations be held accountable for paying the expenditure for land and other related aspects acquired from the ministry of revenue. After all, both come under the state government, said the official.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has directed the water resources ministry to work towards completion of the irrigation projects where 75 per cent work is already done to enhance the irrigation potential in the drought-hit districts.
Reports from all five corporations indicated that the process of land acquisition has proved detrimental for expediting the incomplete work. It has been conveyed that direct negotiations with farmers/land holders will ensure the government does not have to play the role of mediator.
Of the 355 talukas in the state, 179 talukas are drought-prone. The Gosikhurd National Irrigation Project in Bhandara district, started almost 30 years ago, is in the last phase of completion. “Delay in execution of projects escalates the cost of land as well as construction of the project,” said an official.
The direct negotiations model for land acquisition is being stressed by the state government to drastically cut down the complexities in the Land Acquisition Act.
Sources in the water resources ministry said the Centre had failed to come up with a relevant Act. “Maharashtra has a Land Acquisition Act, which allows highest compensation five times more for the land. But the multiple departments involved in the negotiations often leads to procedural delay. Even though we have allowed direct negotiations, land acquisition becomes cumbersome. To avoid the process and also administrative complacency, government is promoting direct land negotiations from farmers for irrigation projects,” said a source.