Wasting water in an area inundated by problems

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By Sanjiv Shankaran

Agriculture presents a problem for any government, be it centre or the states. The overarching issue is that it yields relatively little in terms of economic value addition, but still supports the largest proportion of the work force. The upshot is that people engaged in the sector are among the worst off in India.

Given this context, it would be reasonable to expect any government to expend energy to get the most out of existing agricultural assets. Wasting the potential of an asset in a stressed sector suggests poor management. Sadly, this is what the agricultural sector has witnessed.

The Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices has interesting data on irrigation in its report for the kharif marketing season of 2017-18.

The commission says that water is the most critical and scarce resource in Indian agriculture, which by itself accounts for 83% of the country’s total water use.

Given this situation, we should expect careful management of national water resources.

However, that is not the case.

According to the commission, the gap between India’s irrigation potential created and irrigation potential utilized has increased in recent times.

A period when talk of rural distress is common is also a phase when agriculture’s most important and scarce resource is poorly managed.

The commission recommends keeping tally of water used and rewarding farmers for its efficient use. It is a good place to start.

Instead of viewing farm loan waivers as the key solution for agricultural problems, governments should ask the question if they can do something more to manage agricultural resources better.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

Source: Times of India (blog)

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