Narmada Project has Cheated 6 Crore Gujaratis

Written by Suresh Mehta | Published on: December 9, 2017
While the government has claimed that the Narmada Project is a lifeline for the people of Gujarat, it has been an example of monumental mis-governance. Over the past 15 years, the government had failed to complete the project and has not provided water to farmers. By spending crores of rupees at the cost of the public exchequer on 'Mother Narmada festivities' the ruling party is attempting to fool the public during an election campaign.

Modi Narmada
Courtesy: PIB

These tactics of encashing credit by projecting radial gates issue as a basis of grand celebration have failed for the following reasons.

The entire responsibility for the Narmada Project lies with the state government then headed by Narendra Modi when he took the reins of power. Until then, the execution of Narmada Project was subject to the consent and permissions of other states and authorities. Since the main canal reaches across Rajasthan stretching at a distance of 485 km, the state government has complete responsibility for implementation and execution of the project. Yet the government is defensive.

The report presented of the Comptroller and Auditor General (C.A.G) after inspecting the status of the project as on June 2009 is damning. Audit Reports for the period from the years 2004 to 2009 bring to light aspects of poor planning of the canal network, both at the start and its implementation. In the original scheme, provision was made for allocation of water for irrigation purposes only. Later on, provisions were made to allocate water for drinking and or industrial use. These were afterthoughts. The state government while espousing the use of Narmada waters for drinking purposes, actually diverted lakhs of liters of water to industry. In this way, the government has betrayed the trust of 50 lakh farmers and 58 lakh farm labourers of Gujarat. Instead of laying down canals that would have provided the much needed water for this section, funds have been diverted to laying expensive pipelines to service industry.

The deputy chief minister's announcement claiming that by laying down a 18,500 km long pipeline, there would be an increase in command irrigation area of a staggering 7.5 lakh hectares is a blatant falsehood. Contrarily, the Report of the Narmada Department of the state government itself 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 has increased to 2,09,057 hectares in the year 2012-13. Thereafter there has not been any increase in the irrigation area, according to the report of the Narmada Department itself. Then how can the government claim that it has provided irrigation to an area of 7.5 lakh hectares?

The Report of the C.A.G. (31-03-2009) states that even though investment of Rs. 18,515 crores 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 SSNL has failed in adopting or resorting to vertical integration approach and by not giving priority to extension network the fund has been instead diverted to other parts of the Sardar Sarovar Project and has in fact been wasted through spending that has not improved efficacy or productivity.

Despite these admonitions from CAG, the state government has not mended its ways and has in fact reduced the length of the canal. If the length of the canal is reduced, how can the irrigation area increase?
 
Poor Development, Bad Governance

Irrigation Area Falls Short by One-Tenth
  1. Under the Narmada Project, it was originally planned (or projected) that irrigation to as much as 17,92,000 hectares of land in Gujarat would be provided. However, the annual 2011-2012 report of Narmada department of the state government records that irrigation benefits were extended to only 1,93,683 hectares of land under this project. The area under irrigation increased to 2,09,057 hectares in the year 2012-13. However, during the year 2012-14 area under irrigation did not increase even slightly but had remained as it was before. During the subsequent year, i.e. 2014-15 also there was no increase at all. Thus, by the government's own figures, only 11.67 % of the irrigation potential under the Narmada Project was achieved.
  2. The Gujarat government's fixed the target for irrigation under this project is also quite meager. In the Development Description: 2017-18, Budget Publication 35, the Govt. 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, the government will increase irrigation capacity only by 1,21,103 hectares. In this way, even at the end of 2018-19 on the final completion of the Narmada Project, irrigation will be provided to only 18.42 % of the projected area. This means that no attention has been really paid to this aspect of the project while state government spending on the project has been crores of rupees!
 
Construction of canal of 42,000 km length out of 90,000 km is still pending
  1. The reason behind no rise in the area under irrigation is that construction work of the canal has not proceeded at the pace at which it was anticipated. In accordance with original documents and planning, the total canal length of Narmada Project was proposed at 90,389 km which comprised of 458 km of the long Main Canal and 89,931 km length of other canals(CAG report)
  2. According to one reply given in the Assembly House, the State Govt. further reduced the projected canal length up to 85,898 km. Again a reduction in projected length of the canal was made as stated in the Progress Report of the government on Narmada Project, and the length of the canal has been further reduced to 71,748 Km. Thus, the Gujarat Govt. has reduced the canal length by more than 18,000 Km. The result is that both less length of canals and therefore a lesser irrigated area will be finally provided to people of Gujarat.
  3. While on the one hand reducing the projected canal area, the government has not even kept up its commitment of the reduced canal outlay over the past 15 years. The reduced projection was 71,748 Km. of canal, but, as the Progress Report of the govt. of Gujarat for June 2017 shows, work of laying canals for 22,677 Km. still remains pending! Thus, no execution of 4318 Km. length of canal has at all been made.
  4. The Govt. 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 Govt. itself admits that construction work of the canals has not been completed as yet. Govt. has also stated that it plans to lay 3856 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 Govt. works at this pace also then for construction of all the canals, it may take time of 10 years and 9 months. Presently, the Gujarat Govt. is spending Rs. 9000 crores per annum and if expenditure is incurred at that rate then in coming 11 years the budget amount would reach to Rs. 11,000/- crores. The experts maintain that until the height of Sardar Sarovar Dam is increased then construction work of canal could have been continued but the Govt. did not do so. Looking at this way, is not the Gujarat Govt. criminal as regards execution of Narmda Project? Does not it appear that the Gujarat Govt. has committed a major cheating with six crore people of Gujarat?
  5. Yet another proof is also available on how much does the Govt. lie. In the Development Description, 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 Govt. has not given any Action Plan as to how it will complete the work which it had not been able to execute during last 15 years. This is a fitting example of stark tall talk, which the Govt. has been boasting of by spending crores of rupees.
  6. Non-completion of Narmada Canal is a major offence or lapse on the part of the Gujarat Govt. 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 in it, 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 No. of citizens.
  7. In the Development Description : 2017-18, Budget Publication – 35, the Govt. has also stated that it will make alterations in the canal works executed earlier before 15 years, so as to restore it in fit and proper condition for irrigation purpose. However, proof as to how the sub-standard quality work has been executed, has already become available. In recent times flood calamities were owing to major breaches in canals, and that has been easily and evidently concluded. Expenditure towards repairs to the canals works out to crores of rupees and ultimately its burden lies on the six crore citizens of Gujarat. 
 
Heavy increase in Expenditure but negligible Outcome :- 
  1. As per original plans, total expenditure for Narmada Project was estimated at Rs. 6,000 crores, but by October 2016 it had reached to Rs. 56,286 crores. However, Mumbai based Tata Institute of Social Sciences had in the year 2012 put an estimate that expenditure of Narmada Project could be to the tune of Rs. 72,000 crores. Now the question arises as to when the canal work has been executed in its entirety and considerable delay has taken place then how the expenditure had risen to so much? This means that the Gujarat Govt. has been criminally negligent in the matter of Narmada Project.
  2. The Gujarat State has planned to spend Rs. 9000 crores in the year 2015-16, Rs. 9050 crore in the year 2015-17 and about Rs. 9,000 crore in the year 2017-18. Thus, although an amount of Rs. 18,500 crores was spent within two years of 2015-17, all the canals could not be fully constructed. This is called Development!
As per the Independent Auditor's Report there are series of scams in the Narmada Project.

In the Annual Report of SSNNL (Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd.) for the year 2015-16, a report of the Independent Auditor, Ghiya & Co. is given which shows that there are a lot of scams in the accounts of the Corporation. In majority of the cases it states that accounting standards are not followed. Corporation's total expenditure this year was Rs. 5027 crore and the loss of the Corporation was Rs. 528 crores. One can easily imagine that scams in the accounts amount to the tune of crores of rupees. It is also surprising that the auditor has not pointed out details as to what is the quantum of scams and in which particular account heads. However, from whatever is mentioned in the Annexure No. 3 on the page No. 41 of the Report, one can easily conclude that SSNL is functioning with the grace and in the faith of God. The Independent Auditor's Report also states that internal control system of the Corporation does not function effectively as regards the water charges to be recovered by the Corporation, details of lands, assets, liabilities, balances, deposits, interest, commission, maintenance etc. Then in which respect the Corporation is doing well? Can this be called Good Governance when accounts of crores of rupees are not at all reconciled?