The state government has spent Rs 8,000 crore for acquiring 17,000 hectares of land for irrigation projects across Maharashtra. The budgetary hike for land acquisition comes in the wake of the government’s policy to provide a higher compensation package to the farmers for land acquired to push the projects.
An official in the water resources ministry said, “To expedite the ongoing irrigation projects, the state government took the decision to provide higher compensation package to the farmers/individuals for the land acquired. Till three years ago, Rs 5 lakh was paid per hectare of land acquired. Today, the average rate is Rs 20 lakh per hectare.”
The Centre and the state have set a target of enhancing the irrigation potential from the present 18.1 per cent to 40 per cent in the next five years. Therefore, the state government has taken the decision to put all ongoing projects on the fast-track.
According to a senior secretary in the water resources department, “the decision to provide five times higher rates than the ready reckoner for the land acquired has yielded positive results. It gave farmers higher purchasing power and they came forward to strike a deal on their own terms and conditions without any administrative interference”.
The state government reckons that the biggest challenge remains in the irrigation sector both in terms of completing the projects which have been languishing for last three decades. And also increasing the irrigation potential.
An official said, “There are 376 irrigation projects with a budgetary requirement of Rs 84,000 crore. Of these there are 49 projects in the first phase where land acquisition and environmental clearances are under way. Together, they account for Rs 26,000 crore.”
To ensure the remaining 327 projects were not hampered, the government has worked a financial model worth Rs 57,000 crore. The completion of these projects would create an additional irrigation potential of 7.5 lakh hectares of land. The government’s thrust on better compensation is to negate the resistance from farmers to the projects and also ensure a better lifestyle.
Citing the Gosikhurd project, an official said, “The government has allocated Rs 225 crore for rehabilitation of the project-affected. Already it had provided other compensations twice in the past. The minimum allocation for submergence of house in rural villages is Rs 1.65 lakh.”