With large parts of the state facing water shortage for irrigation, the Gujarat government on Saturday decided to allow power connections to the farmers for agricultural needs in the 57 “dark zone” talukas where the groundwater level is critically low.
The “dark zones’ are areas where uncontrolled lifting of groundwater has led to water table falling very low.
In the order issued on Saturday, the state government has removed a clause where it was mandatory for a farmer in a “dark zone” to set up micro irrigation system to get a power connection for agricultural purposes. “It will not be mandatory for farmers in 57 talukas under the Dark Zone to adopt drip or sprinkler method of irrigation for getting electricity connections for farms,” it said, adding that the decision was taken in view of insufficient rainfall this monsoon which has created a drought-like situation in many areas. The decision is expected to remain till “further orders” by the state government, stated the release.
Groundwater level could be further hit
The move, seen as an attempt by the government to calm down farmers agitated by the drought-like situation, could lead to further depletion of aquifers, especially in Banaskantha, Sabarkantha and Gandhinagar districts of north Gujarat. The 2015-16 Central Ground Water Board’s yearbook observed: “Water levels are declining at an average rate of 2m per year in north Gujarat.”
The moves assumes importance because of the agrarian distress faced by the farmers this Rabi season and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections that are round the corner.
Notably, this is not the first time state government has given out power connections to farmers falling in the “dark zone”. A similar decision was taken in February 2012 before the Assembly polls. Though it could not be ascertained as to how many power connections were given out in the dark zones after the 2012 decision, most of these over-exploited 57 talukas in the ‘dark zones’ fall in the districts of Ahmedabad, Banaskantha, Bhavnagar, Kutch, Kheda, Mehsana, Rajkot and Sabarkantha.
The government, earlier this year, declared 51 talukas as scarcity-hit due to scanty rainfall, and decided to provide financial assistance to farmers in another 45 talukas. Gujarat received only 76.72 per cent rainfall in 2018 monsoon.