Delays ranging from two to 18 years in launching and completing key irrigation projects in Karnataka not only put an additional burden of ₹1,603.09 crore on the state exchequer but also deprived drought-prone districts in the state of water, according to a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India.
The envisaged field irrigation channels (FIC) were also not completed in any of the six tested-checked projects even two to 18 years after their original scheduled dates of completion, noted the report tabled in the ongoing Karnataka legislature session on Tuesday.
The report attributed these delays to lack of planning and execution of the works in sync with the irrigation potential already created.
The report paints a gloomy picture for calamity-prone Karnataka, hit by successive droughts and devastating floods in recent years, crippling agriculture and the rural economy and making its revival harder because of delays in implementation of irrigation targets.
Such delays add to the woes of the farming community, not only in the state but also across the country, with farmers bearing the brunt of plummeting prices of produce, muted agricultural activity, increased pressure on land holdings, and increasing debt.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau data on accidental deaths and suicides in India, 10,349 farmers committed suicide in 2018 in India, which is approximately 28 suicides every day. Karnataka reported one the highest suicide rates in the country.
Of the total 171,166 hectares of FICs due for creation, 118,412 ha were created during 2013-18 by the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government. The 52,754 ha of FICs pending creation included 28,432 ha for which irrigation potential had already been created, according to the CAG report.
The Malaprabha project was included in the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP) in 1996-97 and set to be completed by December 2000. Delays led to cost escalation from the approved ₹581.10 crore to ₹1,713.38 crore in the latest expenditure (March 2018) with some work still remaining.
Anup Francis Dungdung, accountant general (economic and revenue sector audit) said that the delays in completion are also leading to shortage of funds received from the Centre.
The implementing agencies were eligible for central assistance of ₹3,523.35 crore but only ₹2,701.49 crore was received as of March 2018, resulting in shortage of ₹821.86 crore.