In Mahabharat, when Narad asks Yudhishdhir about his well being, the king replies that his fields are no more dependant on rains for irrigation. I quote this to show the importance of basic irrigation system for a state and its economy and care from the apex level of authority. Yes, I am going to connect this to our current situation, I say current plight.
We need not to forget that the evolution of our societal and spiritual development went hand in hand with evolution of agrarian economy. It’s very well evident that when Rig-Veda was being written, new concept and technological developments were also on course in agricultural development. We can see all our customs and rituals are based on our crop systems. Our festivals are based on crop cycles. I found it very interesting to see that all the “pious days” for marriages are between the crop cycles and mostly after the completion of a crop cycles.
In the Ramayan period, king Janak himself went ploughing along with his people. Many a places in our ancient write-up we find that start of a crop season use to be a mega event involving all- kings to lowest level of citizenship. The legacy is continued in our folk songs which can still be heard during the start of major crop cycles- Rabi & Kharif. During start of kharif season, we can experience such correlations from the centuries in the folk songs being sung during paddy planting in the fields. There is a diminishing (yes, this folk singing practice is slowly diminishing,..) practice still can be felt during various occasions in a crop cycles which are mainly a group activities.
While discussing the importance of an agrarian economy what we have inherited, I must confess that our Village based agriculture system is losing ground. I see a few major constraints- one is a Deteriorating Irrigation System.
Now, see the current situation! For a sustained agriculture system the foremost thing needed is an effective canal system. The system connects a reservoir to the fields through a system of head works, distributaries etc.
The current irrigation system is worsening. We have not seen any new launch of irrigation system recently. All we see is mega irrigation projects launched during Nehru era and during first green revolution. I am growing seeing the reduced reach of canal water to the tail near my village. I remember some 20 years back there use to be almost perennial water availability in the canal and in all its minor distributaries. Today I see it dry and encroached. The agony is, Major River water systems were developed during British period. Alike major infrastructure of railways and roadways’ etc, a systemized irrigation system was formulated by British India. I failed to answer, instead improving; we have deteriorated the canal system, why?
I guess some reasons –
1) Severe corruption – a canal system need to be de-silted on yearly basis, but I heard there are tenders awarded and work is done on papers which makes major distributaries to minor and minors to drains and ultimately the existence of a vital system shrinks . While the contractor – engineer nexus becoming rich day by day.
2) Leadership failure – who ever claims to be leaders, they need to take this responsibility of decaying an established canal system along with many other letdowns.
I think after Nehru no one gave serious importance to agriculture’s systematic and comprehensive development. It was Nehru who said, famously, everything can wait but not the agriculture development.
Recently Atalji also tried to a do a major development through river linking project but alas! The present political leadership could not imagine the importance of that project. Today we face drought at one end of India and flood at other. Both situations are ruinous Imagine a system where extra water of Ganga and Brahmaputra is diverted to Krishna and kaveri. It will save a fortune at loss every year by flood in northern India and provide it to our southern states passing through central India. Imagine a day when Tamilnadu, Karnataka and Kerala have no scarcity of water and no dispute over Kavery too.
The grueling resultant to this failure of a canal system is- enhanced use of tube well and pump wells which requires external sources of energy either electricity or diesel and both are precious.
Ground water table is also depleting. The Reports of water table depletion are very very horrible.
The Current Disaster : An Ordinary Farmer’s Plight
Say its global warming or climatic disorder or any other high profile phenomenon but fact is rains are not supporting anymore our irrigation needs. Canal system exist and works a bit , but not for every part of the country. Other means are tube wells. Problem with deep wells is that it’s a costly affair – initial installation cost is substantially high alike running cost. Power supply is either not available or erratically supplied. Diesel is costlier. Fertilizers are getting costlier year by year. There is no authentic and liberal credit system for ordinary farmers. In many a cases farmers end up taking loans from private sources on high rates, which tend to lead to other problems.
Over all input cost of the farming is increasing while the price of agro products is still not as good to match the growing cost of inputs. For example minimum support price for wheat is Rs 750 per quintal while imported wheat cost is Rs1100 per quintal (means we pay more to others than to our own farmers). While the actual price a farmer gets for wheat is around Rs 600-700 per quintal by the trader/ broker. The end user pays around Rs1200 per quintal. So the real beneficiary is the trader while farmers are facing suicide.
How terrible facts at grounds level can be is the matter of serious concern. But is there anyone who thinks so??? It’s happening not only in poor states but also in so called advanced states too. The problem is really grave.
I recall in last 20 years diesel has gone three times up while price of wheat has hardly been twice even. Same is the case with fertilizers. The poor fellow is not able to make its two ends meet. People who are responsible for feeding others are suffering now for their own survival. The person who fails in farming runs to cities as last resort and end up being a meager earning labour or a security guard somewhere. The person who could have added up food production, hence more GDP growth, at his roots, ends up doing unproductive works at some restaurant or someone’s home.
Let’s not forget that inflation affects badly to everyone but it kills a poor farmer.
…and still they say, they have got over 9% GDP growth , they have over $180 Bn in foreign reserves and so on. India ‘for some’ is going boom boom ……………!!
I am not denying the fruits of this growth and agree that even ordinary villages are getting benefited though the pace is sluggish. I see many young men from our villages enjoying the fruits of this booming economy but the benefits are individualistic. We need to rearrange ourselves to become the “food providers’’ of the world.
(Friends! who ever reads this , please don’t be upset as there are still more positives in our Rural india then minuses…..wait for positives…JAI BHARAT!)