India File

Plugging the power deficit

K V Kurmanath M Somasekhar | Updated on January 11, 2018

Too hot Chilli farmers protest against low prices in Warangal. M MURALI

But the agrarian crisis is worsening

The Telangana movement for a separate state was fought on three issues — water, power and employment.

While the K Chandrasekhara Rao Government has surprised many by catching up on the power sector, its performance on the agriculture sector remains anything but impressive.

Agrarian crisis

The State is sitting on an agrarian crisis, made worse by successive droughts. Inadequate budgetary allocations and mounting debts of farmers are aggravating the situation. The loan waiver, an election promise implemented by the KCR Government in three years, is a temporary balm. With a reported 2,300 suicides in three years, the country’s youngest state has climbed to the unenviable top spot in the country.

Agriculture economist K R Chowdhary says the ₹19,000-crore waiver helped little as it was spread over three years. “Take the example of mirchi this season or cotton last year. There is no plan for purchase of the produce. A government must ensure procurement of the last quintal from the farmer,” he says.

The government announced a grant of ₹4,000 an acre for farmers to buy fertilisers and other inputs from the 2018 kharif season. But the Opposition is unhappy. “Why wait till 2018? The farmers are in deep distress now and they need immediate relief. They are going to start this programme next year only with an eye on the elections,” says Chowdhary, who has been tracking agriculture for over 50 years.

Chief Minister K Chandrasekhara Rao is setting up crop colonies to promote specific crops in defined areas. A pilot for this experiment is likely to happen this kharif. The government is planning to extend this to the entire State in phases. But farmers’ unions and non-governmental organisations argued that this could harm crop diversity in the long run.

Water scarcity

On the water front, the Government has taken up two major schemes — Mission Kakatiya and Mission Bhagiradha. While the first one is targeted at reviving about 45,000 tanks in the state, the latter scheme is aimed at providing drinking water. The Chief Minister had said that he won’t seek votes if he failed in providing drinking water to all households.

“We have taken up about 25,000 tanks for revival in three phases with a total layout of ₹7,500 crore. Work has been completed in about 12,000 tanks. We are seeing results already with a significant improvement in water levels,” an official of the Irrigation Department said. The Chief Minister has also reached out to his Maharashtra counterpart Devendra Fadnavis to resolve water sharing issues.

But Ponnala Lakshmaiah, former president of Pradesh Congress Committee and former Minister for Major Irrigation, alleges that the two schemes are ‘big scams’ with the Government indulging in inflating numbers.

On power, the government has succeeded in turning around the power situation in the last three years. From a shortage of 2,000 MW in 2014, the installed capacity went up by 4,000 MW, making the State self- sufficient. Besides it has entered into a 12-year agreement with Chhattisgarh government to secure power up to 2,000 MW. The Government has taken up a pro-active solar energy programme which is drawing good response.

Published on May 22, 2017

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