Its ruling alliance with the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra in disarray, and the Congress and NCP closing ranks on the opposite side, the BJP-led central government is all set to approve a “special package” to “address agrarian distress in 14 suicide-prone districts of Vidarbha and Marathwada” worth around Rs 13,650 crore over five years.
It is learnt that the proposal is being pushed by Union Water Resources Minister Nitin Gadkari who hails from the Vidarbha region.
A meeting on the proposal was held in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on April 9. As a follow-up, an inter-ministerial Expenditure Finance Committee (EFC) met last week. Official sources told The Indian Express that the EFC has vetted the proposal for Cabinet approval.
The proposal states that projects approved under the special package “do not fit into the guidelines for inclusion/funding under the existing schemes [Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP)/Har Khet Ko Pani] of this Ministry (Water Resources). Therefore, Central Assistance in the form of special package is proposed.”
The proposal includes 83 surface minor irrigation projects of which 66 are in Vidarbha and 17 in the Marathwada region, and 8 major/medium irrigation projects with a potential across projects of 3,76,915 hectares. “The balance estimated cost of projects of Maharashtra to be completed under this package is Rs 13,651.61 crore as on 01/04/2018, with Rs 3,412.90 crore being the Central Assistance (CA) by Government of India,” the proposal states.
The April 9 meeting noted that “CA is also to be reimbursed for expenditure incurred during 2017-18 which would amount to Rs 418.51 crore. These projects will provide additional irrigation potential of 3.77 lakh hectare”.
“The funding may be done by Government of India through Budgetary Resources. State share may be provided by the State from their budgetary resources or may be raised by them through NABARD on mutually agreed terms within their FRBM (Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management) limits,” the proposal states.
In addition to the special package, the proposal notes that April 9 meeting also decided that CA of Rs 418.51 crore pertaining to expenditure of Rs1674.04 crore incurred by the Government of Maharashtra on these projects during 2017-18 is required to be made. “Thus, balance CA and State share would be Rs 3831.41 crore and Rs 9820.20 crore, respectively,” it states.
As a background, the proposal notes: “Maharashtra has experienced hydrological and agricultural drought during the year 2012 to 2016. The situation was worst in Vidarbha and Marathwada.”
It notes that “unfortunate incidences of suicides by farmers” occurred in six districts of Vidarbha and eight districts of Marathwada. It notes that the main reasons behind such suicides are “agriculture is mainly rain-fed and without irrigation facilities yield of farm produce is low” and “inability to repay the loans due to less income”.
“The irrigation potential created in 14 districts in Marathwada and Vidarbha is around 18%. Only 6.40% area is actually irrigated. Balance 93.6% area is rain-fed. Therefore, providing adequate irrigation facilities for sustainable agriculture is the need of the hour,” the proposal notes.