March 6, 2020 5:39:39 am
For the eighth year running, Maharashtra’s Economic Survey report has omitted mentioning details regarding the percentage of actual irrigation potential realised in the state.
A contention, made in Economic Survey report for 2011-12, that the percentage of actual irrigation potential had just risen from 17.8 percent in 2000-01 to 17.9 percent in 2010-11, had led to a flashpoint between the Congress and the NCP in the previous regime, which eventually saw then deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar step down.
The bone of contention then had been that while the NCP-controlled water resources department had included wells, nullahs, and rivers located in a dam’s command area while calculating the irrigation potential and the gross irrigated area, the agriculture department under the Congress had objected to their inclusion.
The Congress-NCP government was eventually forced to bring out a white paper on irrigation, an opportunity that the BJP and the Shiv Sena, then in Opposition, had leveraged to level allegations of corruption that had rocked the previous government. While Pawar would later be reinducted into the cabinet, he would continue to face allegations of graft until November last year, when his name was cleared by the investigation agencies.
After it came to power, the Devendra Fadnavis government had continued to refer only to the water resources department’s claims regarding irrigation potential, even as senior state officials had contended to there being a need for conducting a joint survey involving the irrigation, agriculture, and revenue departments. The Uddhav Thackeray-led government has continued the practice.
On the basis of a report from the chief auditor, water and irrigation, Aurangabad, the 2019-20 report has contended that the total irrigation potential created up to June 30, 2019 was 51.23 lakh hectare, including 11.95 lakh hectare under irrigation by wells in the command area. It has however avoided mention of the percentage of the total gross cropped area brought under irrigation in a bid to avoid another controversy.
Water Resources Minister Jayant Patil said, “We have recently taken over reins. The compilation of such data takes a while. We will look to provide it next time.”
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