Prime Minister launches renovation of water bodies abandoned by Planning Commission
By Arabinda Ghose
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on April 30, 2005 launched the first pilot scheme called ?National Project for Repair, Renovation and Restoration of Water Bodies Directly Linked to Agriculture? at the Bhoramdev Tank in Kabirdham (Kawardha) district of Chhattisgarh.
The state Governor, Lt. Gen. K.M. Seth (Retd.), Chief Minister, Dr Raman Singh and the Union Minister of Water Resources, Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, were among those present on the occasion.
This pilot scheme for a total outlay of Rs 300 crore for the remaining period of the Tenth Five-Year Plan was approved by the government in January 2005.
In the first phase, 16 projects in nine states?Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal were approved for an estimated cost of Rs 168 crore as per the project proposals for various states.
Once the pilot projects are complete as validated, it will form the basis for launching the National Water Resources Development Project on a much larger scale and speed.
It appears that Dr Manmohan Singh as Chairman of the Planning Commission was not aware as to what the Ministry of Rural Development thought about the programme. If one opens page 62 of the Annual Report of the Ministry of Rural Development for the year 2004-05, one will come across this paragraph which is quoted below in full:
?In view of the opinion of the Planning Commission and the Department of Expenditure to strengthen the water resources development component of the existing watershed programmes, instead of launching a new scheme, the proposed scheme for renovation of water bodies has been abandoned. The scheme is being taken up by the Ministry of Water Resources.?
Now the questions that arise here are:
Under which sector, Central or state, is the programme being implemented? If the decision to allot Rs 300 crore was taken in January 2005, how come the Budget papers, presented to the Parliament on February 28, do not show it? From which ministry will the amount of Rs 300 crore come? One may certainly resort to the escape clause of ?water is a state subject? to explain away all these confusions and say that the states will finance these programmes themselves. However, then, how do the ministries of the Government of India explain the remarks on p. 62 of the Annual Report of the Ministry of Rural Development for 2004-05 and the Budget papers mentioned earlier?
That this programme was not properly structured before it was announced by the Finance Minister in his Budget speech on July 8, 2004 becomes evident if one quotes from that speech itself. The relevant portion for our discussion is: ?In the current year (2004-05), we shall begin with pilot projects in at least five districts and we shall select at least one district in each of the five regions of the country. The estimated cost is Rs 100 crore. Funds for the five pilot projects will be drawn from the existing programmes, such as SGRY (Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana), PMGJSY, Prime Minister'sGram Sadak Yojana, DPAP, DDP and IWDP.?
It is evident that no work was done during 2004-05 because it could not be undertaken since the Constitution has unfortunately allocated the subject of water to the states.
Finance Minister Chidam-baram, who had spoken so eloquently about this scheme during his Budget speech of July 8, 2004, describing it as his ?dream?, almost skipped this topic during his Budget speech on February 28, 2005. Perhaps he is the only person who is aware that the whole project is actually in a mess and the government had launched this in order to project an alternative to the so-called Inter-linking of Rivers Scheme, which the present ruling parties dub as an NDA (National Democratic Alliance) programme, although it was started by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1980.
Those who are politicising water resources must realise that if we face another drought this year (one hopes India does not), then the dream of attaining 6.9 per cent or more of GDP (Gross Democratic Product) in 2005-06 will remain only a dream.