Corruption spells irrigation doom
GUWAHATI, Sept 7: Something has gone seriously awry with the Irrigation Department in Assam that it continues to fall far short of realizing its full potential. By not realizing even a third of its full irrigation potential the department continues to cut a sorry figure – year after year.
According to documents made available by none other than the department itself, the department’s total irrigation potential is put at 8,04,335 hectares of land. However, it continues to miss realization of its full potential by miles every year. In 2016-17, the department could irrigate only 2,27,822 hectares of land against its irrigation potential of 8,04,335 hectares. This performance, computed to be just 28.32 per cent, is less than even a third of the irrigation department’s full potential. The worst performance of the department is in Dhemaji district where only 1.25 per cent of arable land has been covered under irrigation. Other districts where the department has fared badly are Karimganj with 1.29 per cent, 1.33 per cent in Dhubri, 1.44 per cent in Dibrugarh, 2.29 per cent in Jorhat, 3.05 per cent in Nalbari, 4.73 per cent in Lakhimpur, 4.75 per cent on Morigaon, 5.21 per cent in Golaghat, 5.45 per cent in Tinsukia, 5.57 per cent Hailakandi, 6.01 per cent in Cachar and 7.47 per cent in Sivasagar.
The department has as many as 3,033 irrigation projects/schemes and 20 of them are major/medium ones. The remaining 3,013 projects/schemes are minor ones. While 1,632 projects have been completed, 1,401 projects are ongoing. The amazing fact is the abysmally large number of projects lying idle. Of the 1,632 complete irrigation projects 446 are fully operative, 764 are partially operative, 215 are inoperative but reparable and 207 are beyond repair. Of the 1,401 ongoing projects, 387 are partially operative, 77 are inoperative but reparable, 162 are beyond repair and in 755 projects no potential has been created as yet.
However, there has been no dearth of budgetary allocations for the department. Assam has 40.6 lakh hectares of arable land. Of late, the buzzword at Dispur is doubling agricultural output in the State. If the plight of the Irrigation Department in the State is this, can the State Government ever double its agricultural output? It is anybody’s guess.
What plagues the department that sees frequent changes of ministers without seeing any positive change in its condition? Corruption at the top level in the department, according to allegations, is so deep rooted that the officials are more accountable to contractors than farmers. This has been seen in the previous Congress regime and the present coalition as well. There are allegations that when irrigation machines are functional, canals carrying water are defective and when canals are capable of carrying water they fail to get the back-up from machines.