Finance Minister Arun Jaitley likely to clear Rs 9,500 crore for irrigation projects


Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is considering to clear a proposal of Rs 9,500 crore for Maharashtra to complete its irrigation projects in 14 drought-affected districts of Vidarbha and Marathwada. The state government has also sought Rs 2,500 crore from NABARD.

Highly placed sources in the water resources ministry said, “Preliminary discussions at the level of finance ministry has indicated the projects confined to the worst-hit districts would be given greater priority in terms of allocation of funds. This would help us to expedite the irrigation works in Vidarbha and Marathwada.”

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, during his visit to Delhi last month, pursued the irrigation projects with the union ministry of water resources and union ministry of finance. The union water resources ministry has given its consent and forwarded its report to the finance ministry. Earlier, Fadnavis had urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi for special allocation of funds for irrigation projects in 14 districts of Vidarbha and Marathwada which witnessed severe drought for four consecutive years. Simultaneously, the state government has also started working to mobilise Rs 3,500 to 4,000 crore from the World Bank for drought mitigation through irrigation projects.

A senior officer in the water resources department said, “The entire process should be completed in a month, thus paving the way for us to begin irrigation works.” By then, monsoon, which is at its peak, would also subside, said the officer.

The state government has submitted 132 irrigation projects in drought and suicide-prone districts of Marathwada and Vidarbha. It has sought Rs 4,098 crore for 98 projects in Vidarbha and Rs 3,090 crore for 34 projects in Marathwada. Together the majority of these projects are confined to 14 districts that are worst affected by drought in Vidarbha and Marathwada. Another Rs 2,000 crore added component for small and medium water conservation projects in the 14 districts which could be completed in short periods features in the proposal.

Officials in the union ministry said, “In principle consent has been given to the irrigation projects in drought districts in Maharashtra. However, we are working out the finances as there are similar demands from other drought-prone states.” However, he added, “Unlike in the past, the centre is more accommodating in releasing the funds for irrigation projects since Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also overseeing the development across the country through Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojna. The state has already submitted a separate proposal of Rs 21,000 crore for 26 mega-irrigation projects under PMKSY. While the centre has to allocate 60 per cent of the funds, the state will provide 40 per cent share under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme.”