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Narmada: Tactic of encashing radial gates issue as a basis of grand celebration has turned out to be ridiculous

Counterview Desk
This is the first article is the series “One Can Not Keep Mum Now!” sponsored by the non-political organization, Save Democracy Movement, and prepared by former Gujarat chief minister Suresh Mehta, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (Gujarat) general secretary Gautam Thaker,  environmental expert Mahesh Pandya, and economists Prof Rohit Shukla and Prof Hemantkumar Shah:
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It has been stated that the Narmada Project is a lifeline for the people of Gujarat but, for over last 15 years, the Government of Gujarat has not been able to complete the Narmada Project and could not provide waters to the farmers which portrays an example of its haphazard management. The celebration of "Mother Narmada" festivities creates a position of embarrassment instead of jubilation for the ruling party. By spending crores of rupees at the cost of the Government at the time of the assembly polls, the ruling party made the game-plan for electioneering, canvassing and campaigning.
The tactic of encashing the Radial Gates issue as a basis of grand celebration has turned out to be ridiculous in view of the following reasons.
The entire responsibility of the Narmada Project was that of the Government headed by Narendra Modi after he took reins of power. Until then, the execution of the Narmada Project was subject to the consents and permissions of other States and authorities. Since the main canal reached across Rajasthan stretching a distance of 485 kms, the State Government owning complete responsibility for implementing the project and its execution placed it in a highly defensive mode. The Report presented by the CAG after inspecting its status as on June 2009 is sensational and places the Government inside the cage of a criminal.
Certain points which have emerged therefrom places the Government in an embarrassing situation. The Audit Reports for the period from 2004 to 2009 bring to light aspects like planning of the canal network, and its implementation. The reports reveal that as regards length of the canal network, the Government has committed blunder by extraneously taking unreasonable steps. In the original scheme, provision was made for allocation of water for irrigation purposes only. Later on, provision was made to allocate water for drinking or industrial use as subsequent afterthoughts. The Government of Gujarat made use of Narmada waters for drinking purposes and allocated lakhs of litres of water to the industries. 
This way, the Government of Gujarat betrayed the trust of 50 lakh farmers and 58 lakh farm labourers of Gujarat. Originally, no provision was made or even thought of for providing waters by laying down pipelines. As a matter of fact, this is a grave and gross cheating which has betrayed the trust of the farmers. Crores of rupees have been spent in laying down pipelines, and in that much expenditure, work of many canals could have been completed.
The Deputy Chief Minister has made the announcement that by laying of 18,500 Km. long pipeline, an increase in irrigation area of 7.5 lakh hectare has been achieved in the command area, which means that irrigation facility is provided to that much more area. He has been uttering a blatant lie. A report of the Narmada Department of the Gujarat Government states that during the year 2011-12 irrigation cover was extended to merely 1,93,684 hectare area due to the Sardar Sarovar Project, which hincreased to 2,09,057 hectares in the year 2012-13. Thereafter there has not been any increase in the irrigation area, according to this report. Then how will it be possible to irrigate 7.5 lakh hectare area?
One of reports of CAG (31-03-2009) states that even though investment of Rs. 18,515 crore has been made in the canal network no repairs or maintenance has been taken up. Despite such criticism, the Government has not mended its ways, which is evident from frequent breaches or land-slides in the canals of Narmada.
This Report brings out that during the implementation stage of the Project, the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL) has failed in adopting or is resorting to vertical integration approach, and by not giving priority to extension network, funds have been diverted to other parts of the Sardar Sarovar Project, and have degenerated into useless void or vacuum. Even after that, the Government did not mend its ways and considerably reduced length of the canal.
If length of the canal is reduced then how the irrigation area would increase? The Government has not provided enough irrigation water which is tantamount to criminal neglect and hence it has resulted into cheating by letting down 6 crore people of Gujarat.

Achievement of mere one tenth part in the irrigation area

Under the Narmada Project, it was planned to provide irrigation to 17,92,000 hectares whereas as per the annual report of the Narmada Department of the State Government during the year 2011-12 irrigation benefit was extended to 1,93,683 hectares area with the Narmada Project. This area under irrigation increased to 2,09,057 hectare in the year 2012-13. However, during the year 2012-14 area under irrigation did not increase even slightly but remained as it was earlier. During the subsequent year, i.e. 2014-15, also there was no increase at all. Thus, the Government itself states that as against the irrigation potential under the Narmada Project irrigation facility is provided merely to 11.67 % area.
The Gujarat Government has fixed the target for irrigation which is also quite meager. In the Development Plan 2017-18, Budget Publication 35, the Government states that during the period 2017-18 and 2018-19 the irrigation potential will increase to a total of 3,30,160 hectares. Thus, within two years, Government will increase irrigation capacity only by 1,21,103 hectares. In this way, even at the end of 2018-19 on final completion of the Narmada Project, irrigation will be provided to only 18.42% of the command area. It means that no attention has been paid for increase in the irrigation capacity due to the Narmada Project. On the other hand, the Government has been spending crores of rupees in the budget for the Narmada Project.
Construction of canal for a length of 42,000 Km. out of 90,000 Km. is still pending. The reason behind no rise in the area under irrigation is that construction work of canal has not proceeded at the pace at which it was anticipated. In accordance with original documents and planning, total canal length of Narmda Project was 90,389 km which comprised of 458 km long Main Canal and 89,931 km length of other canals, as has been stated in the Report of the CAG. According to one reply given in the Gujarat Assembly, the State government further reduced the canal length up to 85,898 km. 
Once again reduction was made in it, and as stated in the Progress Report of the Government on Narmada Project, the length of the canal has been reduced to 71,748 km. Thus, the Gujarat Government has made reduction in canal length by more than 18,000 km. Thus, this much less canal will be laid and irrigation will be provided to correspondingly lesser area. It is a fact that if the length of the canal is less, then the irrigation would be extended to that much lesser area.
Even when the Government decided to construct fewer canals, it has not laid down many canals during the last 15 years. Although it was decided to lay 71,748 km of canals, out of that as per the Progress Report of the Government of Gujarat for June 2017, work of laying canals for 22,677 km is still pending. Thus, no execution of 4,318 km length of canal has at all been made.
The Government itself in its Socio-Economic Review of the year 2016-17 (Page No. 19) states that it has completed the work of all the tributary canals to the extent of 87% and that of minor canals to the tune of 74%. Thus, the Government itself admits that construction work of the canals has not been completed as yet. Government has also stated that it plans to lay 3,856 km long canals in the year 2017-18. It means that during the year 2017-18 construction work of canals of the Narmada Project is not going to be completed. If the Gujarat Government works at this pace for construction of all the canals, it may take time of 10 years and 9 months. 
Presently, the Gujarat Government is spending Rs 9000 crore per annum, and if expenditure is incurred at that rate, then in coming 11 years the budget amount would reach Rs 1.1 lakh crore. Experts maintain that, when the height of Sardar Sarovar Dam was being increased, construction work of canals could have been continued, but the Government did not do so. Looking at this way, is not the Gujarat Government criminal as regards execution of the Narmda Project? Does not it appear that the Gujarat Government has committed a major cheating with six crore people of Gujarat?
Yet another proof is available on how much does the Government lie. In the Development Plan 2017-18, Budget Publication No 35, it has been stated that the work of canal network shall be completed in the year 2017-18. The Government has not given any Action Plan as to how it will complete the work which it had not been able to execute during the last 15 years. This is a fitting example of tall talk, which the Government has been boasting of by spending crores of rupees.
Non-completion of Narmada Canal is a major offence or lapse on the part of the Gujarat Government. Not only that, at the same time, wherever the canals have been laid, many of them have been built with highly sub-standard quality material and workmanship; breaches or land-slides have occurred at many places and many of them have not been repaired as yet. This expenditure shall ultimately be met with by imposing taxes on six crore citizens.
In the Development Plan 2017-18, Budget Publication 35, the Government has also stated that it will make alterations in the canal works executed 15 years ago, so as to restore it in fit and proper condition for irrigation purpose. However, proof as to how sub-standard quality work has been executed is available in the form of flood calamities, which led to major breaches in canals. Expenditure towards repairs to the canals works out to crores of rupees and ultimately its burden lies on six crore citizens of Gujarat.

Heavy increase in expenditure but negligible outcome 

As per original plans, total expenditure for the Narmada Project was estimated at Rs 6,000 crore, but by October 2016 it reached to Rs 56,286 crore. However, the Mumbai-based Tata Institute of Social Sciences had in the year 2012 estimated that expenditure on the Narmada Project could be to the tune of Rs 72,000 crore. Now the question arises: When the canal work would be executed in its entirety as it has been considerably delayed, what would be the expenditure in the end? This means that the Gujarat Government has been criminally negligent in the matter of the Narmada Project.
The Gujarat State had planned to spend Rs. 9000 crore in 2015-16, Rs 9050 crore in 2016-17 and about Rs 9,000 crore in 2017-18. Thus, although an amount of Rs. 18,500 crore was spent in two years, 2015-17, canals could not be fully constructed. Is this called development?
In the Annual Report of SSNNL for the year 2015-16, a report by the Independent Auditor, Ghiya & Co.  says that there are lot of scams in the accounts of the Corporation. In majority of cases, it states, accounting standards are not followed. The Corporation's total expenditure that year was Rs. 5027 crore and the loss of the Corporation was Rs. 528 crore. One can easily imagine that scams in the accounts amount to crores of rupees. It is also surprising that the auditor has not pointed out details as to what is the quantum of scams, and under which particular account heads. 
However, from whatever is mentioned in the Annexure No. 3 on page No. 41 of the Report, one can easily conclude that the SSNNL is functioning with the grace and faith of God. The Independent Auditor's Report also states that internal control system of the Corporation does not function effectively as regards water charges to be recovered by the Corporation. It also has details of land, assets, liabilities, balances, deposits, interest, commission, maintenance etc. In what respect the Corporation was doing well? Can this be called Good Governance when accounts of crores of rupees are not at all reconciled?

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