Jalayagnam comes to a virtual halt

NM Satheesh  Indian Express 3 Nov 2009

HYDERABAD: Jalayagnam, the favourite scheme of former chief minister the late YS Rajasekhara Reddy, seems to have slided down in the list of priorities of the present government.

Leave alone the progress of the programme at the field level, even a review of it by the government has become rare in the last two months.

According to sources in the irrigation department, funding of the programme has come to a halt and the pending bills are piling up with the government.

It seems that the government is not going to spend the allocated budget Rs 18,000 crore in this financial year. The government has not released even Rs 1,000 crore for the projects in the last two months. It was decided by the regime of Rajasekhara Reddy that the government should release about Rs 1,400 crore every month to keep the projects going.

According to officials, the government has already halted payment of Rs 4,000 crore which was spent by the contractors and the construction of projects like Pulichintala which has been completed to an extent of 70 per cent is not progressing as per the schedule.

Irrigation officials say that the time table fixed by the government for the completion of 82 major and medium irrigation projects under Jalayagnam will go awry.

The YSR government had contemplated Jalayagnam to bring about one crore acres of land under irrigation facility. Under the scheme 82 projects are to be constructed at a cost of Rs 1.50 lakh crore.

Since the 20050-06 financial year the government has been spending about Rs 10,000 crore every year and has spent about Rs 50,000 crore till now. In the last five years 11 projects have been completed providing about 16 lakh acres of land with irrigation facilities.

Major projects like Polavaram, Pranahita-Chevella, Pulichintala, Ellampally, Dummugudem, Uttarandhra Sujala Sravanti and Galeru-Nagari Srujala Sravanti, which need more than Rs 20,000 crore, are yet to take off. The government is trying to secure the national project status to the Polavaram project.

As of now, about 60 projects are in various stages of construction and need about Rs 3,000 crore every month if they are to be completed in time. But the cash-strapped government is unable to release adequate funds, thus jeopardising their timely completion.

The government is now getting a revenue of about Rs 5,000 crore every month and has to spend most of the amount on salaries, maintenance, schemes like Rs 2 a kg rice, reimbursement of students’ fees, Arogya Sri, subsidy on power and seeds to farmers, subsidy to self-help groups and on the mid-day meal scheme.

Weighed down by the enormous burden the government is finding it virtually impossible to fund the irrigation projects. Hence non-release of funds in time.