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Centre’s sanctions funds for incomplete state’s irrigation projects

In a major boost to 26 large but incomplete irrigation projects in Maharashtra, the Centre on Tuesday sanctioned a Rs 16,603-crore loan to the state. “This is the single largest assistance organised by the Indian government for the irrigation sector to one state,” I S Chahal, principal secretary , state water resources department . The first instalment of the loan will be released next month. These projects fall under the Prime Minister Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY), earlier known as the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme.

Most of these projects were languishing for over three decades, causing untold distress to farmers across rural Maharashtra during drought years. Central funding was stopped three years ago; one of the reasons was the mega irrigation scam.

“The 26 projects are 55% to 90% complete. With this loan we are confident that these projects will be ready in the next three years,” said Chahal. Some of these big projects include Gosikhurd, Lower Wardha, Bawankhadi, Lower Dudhna, Nandur Madhya Meshwar, Warna, Arjuna, Aruna and Tillari.

The state had signed MoUs with the Centre over the last two decades for funding. But due to paucity of funds and allegations of malpractice, most of them re mained stuck. For such projects, the Centre generally provides 60% of the funds while the state has to shell out the remaining. Gosikhurd, which is one of the largest national irrigation projects with an irrigation potential of 2.5 lakh hectares, has been in the works since 1983. Over the past 30 years, governments ha ve sunk a staggering Rs 26,000 crore in these 26 projects; but another Rs 25,000 crore would be required to complete them. The state government’s annual budget for irrigation is around Rs 7,500 crore.
Chahal said following meetings with Union ministers Uma Bharati and Nitin Gadkari, it was finally decided to sanction the Rs 16,603-crore loan to the state. Of this, a large chunk of the loan (Rs 12,773 crore) will be provided by Nabard at a 5.5% interest to be repaid over 15 years. The Central aid is primarily meant for projects stalled for want of funds. Only those projects were considered under the programme, which were cleared by the now defunct Planning Commission.  Assistance to large projects is given for phased completion so that benefits can start flowing early with comparatively smaller investments.

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