ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Irrigation Sector 'Turnaround' in Madhya Pradesh?

A critique of Tushaan Shah, G Mishra, P Kela, P Chinnasamy's "Har Khet Ko Pani? Madhya Pradesh's Irrigation Reform as a Model," (Economic & Political Weekly, 6 February 2016).

In the article, “Har Khet Ko Pani? Madhya Pradesh’s Irrigation Reform as a Model,” Shah et al (2016) take on the irrigation bureaucracy. They argue that the current fate of public (surface) irrigation investments in the country is like a bottomless pit, wherein increase in investment for surface irrigation systems only leads to a reduced area under irrigation. Quoting a Reserve Bank of India (RBI) study, the authors argue that in spite of well over ₹2 lakh crore of investment in public irrigation and flood control during 1991–2007, the actual area irrigated by government canals decreased by 3.8 mha. While incorrectly considering increase in “canal irrigated area” as the only benefit from public irrigation and flood control schemes, the authors attribute this “colossal wastage of money” to “deficiencies in planning, implementation and management,” and a case of poor governance, again taking the help of RBI researchers. Unlike the RBI researchers, the authors also prescribe a “silver bullet” to eradicate the problem which irrigation planners in the country are grappling with, by drawing on the experience of Madhya Pradesh (MP) in “turning around” the sector.

Wrong Diagnosis

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