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Irrigation spectre haunts after four decades!

The Dhansiri Irrigation Project started 42 years ago has still miles to traverse; Minister makes a March 2018 promise for completion; but would people be caught by surprise again?

GUWAHATI, Feb 9: You won’t believe it, but you will have to! After all, Assam is eminent for the unbelievable. The story here, nevertheless, is interesting. An irrigation project began 42 years back with a great promise for the people craving for water to do something in agricultural so as to sustain their livelihood. They desperately needed water for their fields; and they had nothing to fall back on. But wonder of wonders, the project continues till date! About 15 per cent of the work is still to be done. And the sanctioned amount has had a quantum jump from Rs 15.83 crore to Rs 566.85 crore. All this in the name of agricultural development… And all in the name of mitigating agrarians’ woes! All in the name of rescuing the public caught in the vicious cycle of poverty and backwardness. This too, then, is yet another classic face of Assam! Thanks, of course, to the Irrigation Department.
This came to light on Friday as State Irrigation Minister Ranjit Dutta was replying to a question posed by AGP MLA Phani Bhusan Choudhury in the State Assembly on the state of irrigation affairs in the State.
According to the information revealed by Dutta, the Dhansiri Irrigation Project started in 1975-76 in Udalguri district with a sanctioned amount of Rs 15.83 crore only to continue till date with a sharply increased sanctioned amount of Rs 566.85 crore. Another Rs 119.35 crore is needed to complete the 15 per cent of pending work. The Minister said there is a plan to approach NABARD for the additional amount.
“We hope the project will be completed by March this year,” he said.
Dutta further revealed there are currently 3,033 irrigation projects in the State, out of which 1,632 schemes have been completed. Out of the completed schemes, 446 are fully functional, 764 are partially functional, 215 are defunct but repairable, while there are 207 schemes that have gone defunct and are not repairable as well.
Replying to another irrigation-related question posed by BPF MLA Rabiram Narzary, the Minister said, “The Dhansiri project got slowed down during the Congress rule. For four years from 2012 to 2015, no work was done at all. It was only after we came to power that the project caught pace. Once completed, the project will be handed over to the BTC.”
Now the mother of all questions in the context here: If for the long and tiring 42 years a simple project as the one of Dhansiri could not come to fruition, how can people expect a miracle of sorts as to see a fully completed project by March this year as the Minister has promised – perhaps at his political best?