Irrigation and agricultural productivity

Whereas the total irrigated area of the State stands at mere 46,512 hectares, a staggering 1,87,928 hectares of agricultural land or paddy fields are devoid of any irrigation facility. In another word, agricultural activities, specially paddy cultivation in the State are heavily dependent on nature or monsoon rainfall. When the fate of agriculture depends on the vagaries of monsoon, there simply is no guarantee for the expected annual yield. As long as there is no guarantee for the expected yield, one cannot expect any substantial rise in the State’s agricultural productivity. Stagnancy of agricultural productivity in the face of ever increasing population only implies that food security is only a wistful thinking. When agricultural productivity remains stagnant or unpredictable, farmers will continue to languish in poverty and the State’s economy, as a whole, will not see any substantial growth.  Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious vision of doubling farmers’ income by 2022 has turned out to be a pipedream in the State of Manipur. Doubling farmers’ income means expanding and promoting agricultural activities. It is only natural if one is expecting greater output, there should be better and greater input. With the exception of a few hectares here and there, vast expanse of paddy fields is left uncultivated after paddy is harvested till the next paddy season. Usually paddy cultivation season starts in May/June and the crop is harvested in October/November which means around six precious months are wasted without cultivating anything on these vast tracts of paddy fields but why. The answer is not far to seek. There is neither any reliable irrigation facility nor institutional support. Here one would certainly like to ask, “Where are the dams and other irrigation facilities built at the cost of thousands of crores over the decades?”
If the vast tracts of agricultural lands left uncultivated for months in a year and scarcity of water being endured by the people are any indication, the State’s irrigation facilities, dams, both major and minor and water conservation measures have failed miserably to deliver their intended purposes.  Every time water scarcity hits the State or paddy cultivation is threatened by scanty rainfall, we cannot help questioning the utility or effectiveness of all the big and small dams built in different parts of the State, much to the deterrence of environment and ecology.  Many River Lift Irrigation schemes were taken up in different parts of the State at the cost of huge public money but the Government openly admitted that maximum numbers of these RLI schemes are not functional. In the absence of proper irrigation facilities and with the paddy fields shrinking at an alarming rate, the State’s agricultural sector has been pushed to a very precarious situation.  Of course, there is the Manipur Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act 2014 which prohibits reclamation of agricultural land for any non-agricultural purpose. But it seems nobody gives a damn about the Act and different construction works were/are done right under the nose of the Government on prime agricultural lands at different parts of the State. An Act may look quite comprehensive and impressive but the same beautifully crafted Act is nothing more than a white elephant if the executive (sic Government) which is responsible for implementing it is ill-equipped or bereft of the necessary dose of will. No wonder, it is the Government itself and their men who many a great time violated and twisted laws and Acts to suit their own interests. When the agriculture sector is in such a precarious situation, doubling farmers’ income or raising the State’s agricultural productivity can best be a pipedream, as of now.  It’s time agriculture sector gets its due share of attention and investment.