RIP Jalyukt Shivar Yojana: The story of rise and fall of a drought proofing scheme: Part 1

The Jal Yukt Shivar Yojana touted to be most important programme for drought proofing Maharashtra by the earlier government has been sidelined and eventually closed by the current government. This blog post looks in the context of emergence of JYS and its design as per the government resolution. This is first part of the 2 part blog series that I intend to present.

Introduction

Maharashtra has the largest number of dams in the country. At the same time, there are about 25 lakh groundwater sources across the state in the form of dug-wells, bore-wells, hand-pumps etc. Given these facts, it is expected that the state will have a fair amount of agricultural area under irrigation. However, what is seen is that only about 18 percent1 of the total agricultural land is under irrigation. Nearly 82 percent of the agriculture is rainfed in the state that has seen one of the highest investment in irrigation development in the country over the last few decades.

Over the last decade or so, Maharashtra has experienced humungous vagaries in rainfall and recurrence of droughts in the region. Rainfall variability coupled with declining groundwater reserves further exacerbates the situation on ground with respect of water security.

This situation has led to array fo responses from the state as well as non-state actors over the last few years. One of the landmark scheme that was planned to address the challenges associated with droughts was the Jalyukt Shivar Yojana.

The Context

An array of irrigation schemes were designed and implemented since early 2000s by the government in different parts of the state. These were marred with cost escalations and corruption charges brought forth by various civil society organisations, whistleblowers and the opposition in Legislative Assembly. The allegations were to such extend that they proved to be one of the important weapon in dethroning the Congress-NCP government in the state of Maharashtra by the alliance of BJP-Shiv Sena in 2014. Prior to this power shift, various events shaped the development of this irrigation scam, as it was called then (and may be now too?). The government even issued a white paper in November 2012 for irrigation projects worth 68000 crore rupees in the state. Most of the points in paper justified the cost escalations and highlighted that the irrigated area in the state increased by 28 percent.

This was quite surprising to many since the Economic Survey of Maharashtra for 2011-12 claimed that even after spending nearly 72000 crores during the 2001-2010 decade, the rise in irrigated areas was only 0.01 percent. This became a political case since during most part of that decade, the Congress-NCP government was in power. This was coupled with a CAG report of 2011 which audited the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation and raised various queries pertaining to incomplete projects, changes in design, irregularities in tendering processes. With mounting pressures from all direction, the deputy Chief Minister of the state (also holding the water resources development portfolio at that time) resigned and paved a way for a stronger argument for the opposition in the ensuing national elections of 2014 immediately followed by state elections in October 2014.

When the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance came into power in October 2014, one of the first things that was undertaken was the design and implementation of a new scheme called Jal Yukt Shivar Yojana (henceforth JYS). Given the large scale alleged irrigation corruption during the last few years, and recurrent demands from the agricultural communities to improve the state of water resources in the region, the government went into prioritising a decentralised mode. A government resolution was issued in December 2014 and the work began immediately the following financial year. The next section looks at the design of the JYS scheme.

Decentralising water conservation: The Jalyukt Shivar Yojana design
Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan - Wikipedia
Source: Wiki Commons

If one carefully reads the Government Resolution pertaining to JYS which was published on 5 December 2014, immediately after the new government came to power in the state, we can find references to water scarcity, groundwater depletion, rainfall variability and its impact on agriculture as a recurrent theme throughout the document. Some of the objectives highlighted in the document include augmentation of groundwater resources, improving decentralised water storage mechanisms, promote water budgeting amongst communities and arrest water within village boundaries/watersheds. It welcomed contribution from private sector, CSR and civil society organisations to be part of the programme. The institutional structure had divisional, district and taluka level committees for implementation of scheme. The total programme period was 5 years coinciding with the government tenure in the state. It was widely promoted as a mechanism for drought proofing Maharashtra.

One of the striking feature of this programme was a GIS based documentation of pre and post implementation and MRSAC was appointed to do the same.

The MRSAC website with details about all works undertaken under JYS (Source: MRSAC)

One of the objectives highlighted in the document was implementation of the Maharashtra Groundwater (Development and Management) Act, 2009. Apart from a one line reference to this, one is disappointed to see elaboration about how this process will be undertaken.

When the JYS was being implemented, there was an appreciation of the fact that this multi-departmental approach was an innovative approach to address decentralised water conservation efforts. It involved various departments including minor irrigation (water conservation), agriculture, irrigation, water resources, groundwater surveys and development agency, MGNREGA and revenue amongst others. Indeed there are examples of such efforts in case of other states for eg. Sardar Patel Sahkari Jal Sanchay Yojana (SPSJSY) which have been touted for success of Managed Aquifer Recharge (improvement of groundwater resources).

Focus on Supply side interventions

For most part of the scheme’s design one can find a focus on interventions aimed at supply augmentation for groundwater resources. It quotes many activities like desolation of percolation and storage tanks, repair and rebuilding of check dams, well and bore-well recharge programme, revival of traditional water systems etc. It cites convergence of various schemes like Mahatma Phule land and water mission, PMKSY, Vidarbha Irrigation development fund, IWMP etc.

Jalyukta Shivar brings 15 lakh hectares of land under irrigation | Cities  News,The Indian Express
Ex CM Devendra Fadnavis inspecting works under JYS Scheme

For a scheme that was implemented in nearly 16522 villages across the state with a spending of nearly 7600 crore rupees, it expects an assessment to understand the impact of the scheme on three key elements: a. impact on groundwater resources b. drought proofing agriculture and c. sustainability of the works undertaken.

I shall attempt to decipher these three key aspects from available data and existing studies on the scheme. This is essentially important since many programmes aimed at improving the state of groundwater resources in Maharashtra and in other parts of the country (for eg. PoCRA and recently launched Atal Jal) focus largely on a similar design of implementation i.e. decentralised water conservation works and groundwater recharge strategy. How will they fare – the seeds of that understanding are planted in a thorough analysis of the JYS scheme.

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