Window to Real Gujarat #3: Tribal Farmers Wait for Water as Irrigation Projects Bungled

December 11, 2017

Lies, More Lies and Gujarat Model

Views That Matter is putting out a series of articles on the "Gujarat Model." Much of this material, first published on Newsclick is based on the CAG reports which have been under reported in the mainstream press. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP have endlessly praised the so called ‘Gujarat Model’ of development and governance. Gujarat has been ruled by the BJP continuously for over 19 years, since 1998. This includes the 13 years when Modi himself was the chief minister. He presided over the brutal massacre of about 2000 persons, mostly Muslims, in a communal carnage shortly after taking over the reins of power in 2001. In subsequent years, a mythology of ‘good governance’ and ‘development’ was created to describe the Gujarat state govt.’s performance, under the guidance of Modi. Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda Minister would have learnt a thing or two from Modi's propaganda machine.. tell a lie often enough and it is taken as the truth. The reality of the Gujarat model is quite different. Please read and share this series

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP have constantly told the country that as chief minister of Gujarat (2002-2014) he established such an efficient and transparent model of administration that Gujarat made a quantum jump into prosperity. Special mention is made of how Modi’s ‘model’ government paid minute attention to the problems of farmers and ensured that their needs are met.

A series of reports by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) have blown the lid off these claims. These reports lay out in painstaking detail how the Gujarat state government bungled provision of water for irrigation - one of the most crucial needs of farmers. Although Gujarat was getting a huge amount of water from the Narmada, thanks to the controversial Sardar Sarovar Dam in MP, people in the distant reaches of state, especially in poverty ridden hilly terrain, watched as years went by and the promised water failed to reach them

The CAG report #5 of 2015 reviewed the building of 4 High Level canals (HLC) by the water resources department. Water is lifted from the main canal through pumps to flow into HLCs so that it can irrigate 34,199 hectares (ha) land in 195 villages. Located in hilly areas of Mahisagar, Panchmahal, Surat and Bharuch districts, many of these are tribal villages.

What emerged was shocking: after spending about Rs.450 crore over a decade, the four canals were potentially able to reach about 11,476 ha (one third of the target), but since the last irrigation channels were not yet built, water was actually reaching just 3361ha (about 4% of the target).

The story of why this happened is as sordid as the end result. It is a long list of contractors getting work awarded to them but not completing it on time and disappearing, monitoring and testing not being done of so called completed work, delayed land acquisition for canals, land surveys not getting carried out, bureaucratic imbroglios, defective planning, delay in getting permissions from railways and forest departments, etc. The CAG lists bizarre cases of contractors claiming that dug out more earth than was estimated in the original project report, and payments being adjusted to the high figure, of payment of electricity bills even when it was not being used and so on.

From this, it becomes clear that planning and execution of important works like irrigation canals is stuck in virtually the same morass as in any other state of the country. Its result is also the same: farmers from marginal communities like adivasis suffer. The Gujarat ‘model’ is in fact no different in its inefficiency and neglect of the needy. Considering that Gujarat has much more resources at its disposal than other states the neglect of the needs of marginal communities is nothing less than callous. And, the chasm between the hype of ‘Gujarat model’ and the reality on the ground as shown in these reports is definitely unique in India.

There is another aspect not spelt out in black and white by the scrupulous CAG but eminently deducible from their report. If a contractor doesn’t do what he was contracted to do and the govt. does not realize this after 4-5 years of work, and then doesn’t penalize him – it can only mean that there could be some connivance. Similarly, if minor irrigation channels are not tested, the contractor is paid off, and then it is found that channels crumble and are unable to hold water, it means somebody was turning a blind eye to the work. All this ‘negligence’ and ‘delay’ in monitoring stinks of corruption and playing with the lives of people.

A review of earlier CAG reports shows that the water resources department of Gujarat govt. has been criticized by CAG for many years. It was pinned down for excessive and “unfruitful” expenditure in 2011-12, for “irregularities in tender process” and favouring certain contractors in 2012-13, and for wasteful expenditure in 2013-14. The cases detailed in these earlier reports too smack of brazen violation of rules, like issuing tenders even before the draft tender documents were finalized. This kind of shenanigans that are done to get contracts awarded to cronies are rarely seen even in other states. Perhaps Gujarat’s government officials had developed an impunity under the protective shield of their ‘model’.