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State Policy and Irrigational Disparities: A Study of Telangana's Backwardness
S.Simhadri (Reader, Department of Geography, Osmania University)
Telangana, the semi-arid land of India, is experiencing drought often pushing large numbers of people to the margins of living. Drought visits south Telangana "once in two and half years" (DDFA, p.47). The rainfall of about 70 cm and less in southern Telangana hardly justifies the fact that the region should languish under semi-arid conditions. In fact, the region forms part of the catchment of the perennial rivers Krishna and Godavari. The irrigation policy initiative over the years continuously favored the Delta region leaving a large number of people at the mercy of degraded nature and sub-human living. Thus "Telangana backwardness has essentially political roots: with better administration the considerable water resources could have been more fully tapped for irrigation. Telangana is still mainly a dry farming area, like Rayalaseema, but the reason for this in Telangana is long term failure to harness the potentialities of the area "(Forrester, DB, 1970, P.8).
The irrigation works of British engineers in the construction of Yamuna canals and Ganga canal of northern India proved financially beneficial during the nineteenth century under colonial irrigation policy. Military engineer, Arthur Cotton's, works on the Cauvery Delta system, the Godvari Delta system and the Kristna Delta system fetched good financial returns. Under the 'guarantee system' colonial government was pressurised to hand over irrigation works to private enterprise with a guaranteed return of five per cent on the capital outlay. The works taken up by Madras Irrigation Company on the River Tungabhadra-KC Canal, incurred heavy losses and it had to hand over the incomplete works to the government in 1882. In the year 1879 the Parliament decided to apply the criterion called the "Productivity Test" for major projects to assure the financial returns (CBIP 1965). However, the First Famine Commission of 1880 underlined "the need for direct state initiative in the development of irrigation particularly in the vulnerable areas. It also recommended that irrigation be given priority over other competing fields, such as the railways. The two great famines of 1897-98 and 1899-1900 however, left the government with no alternative but to initiate protective measures against drought and famine over large areas" (Jain 1972: p.62). Further the first Irrigation Commission of India of 1901 in its report submitted in 1903, favored protective irrigation projects in precarious regions in preference to the productivity test. Through the Government of India Act of 1935, irrigation was brought under the local provincial governments, excepting treating irrigation as federal in Inter-State disputes (CBIP, 1965).
The post-independent development of irrigation has relaxed the productivity test of irrigation projects. Several projects had been taken up by the planning authorities to protect people from fragile environs (CBIP, 1965). The inter-state allocation of water of river Krishna was taken up by the Planning Commission in the early period of planning. "The need from an All India point of view for increasing available food supplies within the shortest possible time and on the most economic basis" (KWDT, 1969 p.9) was considered a part of the policy framework by the Planning Commission, besides expressing the importance of the development of backward regions. In view of the disagreement expressed by the riparian states of the river Krishna the Government of India appointed the Krishna Godavari Commission in 1961 to report on the matters concerning the availability of water in Krishna, requirements of the projects on the Krishna and feasibility of diverting surplus water from river Godavari to Krishna. "The Krishna Godavari Commission could not find answers to any of the terms of reference" (KWDT, 1969 p 13 5). This was followed by the publication of a report of Krishna water disputes Tribunal headed by Justice Bachawat in 1976. While addressing the inter-state allocation of Krishna water, the Tribunal also made intra-state allocations of the river water in view of treating the state as single territorial unit. In the light of the regional diversification and uneven regional development in the state of Andhra Pradesh, the intrastate river water allocation/development has become a bone of contention.
The brief analysis of the irrigation development in Andhra Pradesh illustrates the regional politics in the making of the irrigation system. While debating the merger of a backward region with developed region irrigation figured as an important problem. During the merger of backward Rayalaseema with developed Coastal Andhra, Rayalaseema insisted through the Sribagh Pact in
1937 that "to ensure the rapid development of the agricultural and economic interests of Rayalaseema and Nellore to the level of those in the coastal districts, schemes of irrigation should, for a period of ten years or such longer period as conditions may necessitate, be given a preferential claim specially in respect of the utilization of the waters of Tungabhadra, Krishna and Pennar, giving for ten years exclusive attention in respect of major projects beneficial to these areas" (Rao, 1972 p.57). Similarly, during the proposed merger of Andhra Region (AR) with Hyderabad State the issue of river waters figured again. Leaders from Telangana expressed fears more about impending social, political, economic and institutional domination over backward region by developed people of the Delta and Rayalaseema. The Telangana Reddy leadership feared that they may be politically ruined by the Rayalaseema Reddys and the Circar Brahmins who were political pundits as there was no stopping for these forces. "Further some of the people from Telangana felt that in the then Andhra State, parochialism and casteism were rampant right from the Minister to the ordinary political worker" (Rao, 1972 p 74-75). The proponents of Visalandhra presented their expansionist regional ideology before the State Reorganization Committee (SRC) that "the formation of Visalandhra will be that the development of the Krishna and Godavari rivers will thereby be brought under unified control ... complete unification of either the Krishna or the Godavari Valley is not, of course, possible. But if one independent political jurisdiction, namely that of Telangana, can be eliminated, the formulation and implementation of plans in the eastern areas in these two great river basins will be greatly expedited" (SRC Report, 372). This position of Andhra ideologues amply proves the bias over water resources belonging to Telangana.Regional Pattern of Irrigation Land Use
An examination of the land use of Andhra Pradesh under different sources of irrigation speaks of the changing pattern of land use. In the category of Geographical area irrigated (GAI) in the state at the time of the formation of the state was 79.07 lakh acres (1955-56). This has grown over the period of four decades to the size of 1.28 crore acres (1994-95) in the state.
GAI is inclusive of area irrigated by canals, tanks, tube wells, other wells and other sources. In the category of canals the state increased its area from 31.28 lakh acres (1955-56) to 39.67 lakh acres (1994-95). The regional break up under this category shows that GAI in Telangana region increased from 8.85 per cent to 14.44 per cent over the four decades. Tank irrigation of the state shows the declining trend from the area of 26.38 lakhs in 1955-56 to 17.09 lakh acres in 1994-95.
The share of tank irrigation decreased from 41.88 per cent in 1955-56 to 31.64 per cent in 1994-95 (DES). Tank irrigation in Telangana is a vital input in the drought ecosystem and is being threatened by the irrigation policy. On the other hand, during four decades, the percentage share of tank irrigation in Andhra region increased from 58.11 per cent to 68.35 per cent.
The development of major irrigation in the river basins of Krishna and Godavari by the successive Governments of Andhra Pradesh worked in favor of Coastal Andhra. The share of river waters through major irrigation in the Krishna basin of each Telangana, Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema is 27 per cent, 56 per cent and 17 per cent, respectively, whereas the catchment share is Telangana 69 per cent Coastal Andhra 13 per cent and Rayalaseema 17 per cent. The share of catchment of the river Godavari of Telangana and Coastal Andhra is 79 per cent and 21 per cent. However, the development of irrigation potential in the Godavari basin is only about one-third of its allocation of 1495 tmc. ft. of which developed irrigation potential is about 270 tmc ft. in Coastal Andhra and only 185 tmc ft. in Telangana (Simhadri 1996). Due to political and bureaucratic neglect of Telangana in irrigation a large quantity of the precious water drains into the Indian ocean.
An analysis of the development of major irrigation of Telangana exposes the ruling and bureaucratic forces constituted predominantly by people of Andhra region. They operate at many levels--region, caste, class and in appropriating the water resources of the river basins of Krishna and Godavari. The regional bias is visible in all aspects of the projects. The political and bureaucratic roots of policymakers and implementers have a bearing on the concept of the project, budgetary allocation, expenditure, time frame and so on.
Historically, such an element of bias in major irrigation favored the Andhra region by denying the genuine needs of the Telangana region. This is amply substantiated by the fact that the ayacut contemplated under the Godavari anicut initially was 4.38 lakh acres which, has now gone up to 10.69 lakh acres. The ayacut contemplated under the Krishna Anicut has similarly gone up from 5.87 lakh acres to 12.65 lakh acres. So was the case with the ayacut under both the Pennar anicut at Nellore and Sangham which grew from 1.75 lakh acres to 2.5 lakhs (The Hindu).
The irrigation projects of Telangana invariably have differential performance, often with reduced storage capacities and shrinking commands. An analysis of the Sriramsagar project (SRSP) shows that the project was proposed as an Integrated Godavari Valley project by the erstwhile Hyderabad state to develop irrigation potential with 400 tmc ft. to irrigate 40 lakh acres in seven districts of Telangana. SRSP passed through various proposals of 257 tmc ft. followed by 160 tmc. ft. and ended with the construction at Pochampad with 112 tmc. ft. capacity. However, siltation caused heavy shrinkage in dead storage capacity with utilization of 86 tmc. ft. The initial contemplation of irrigated area of 40 lakh acres reduced to 16.9 lakh acres in the name of Pochampad project (SRSP) and is presently irrigating about 3.00 lakh acres by utilizing 66 tmc. ft. of water.The SRSP is to be executed in two stages by bringing areas of Adilabad, Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Warangal, Nalgonda districts. The canal works are yet be taken up in Warangal and Nalgonda. Lack of proper development of canals and distributaries and canal lining to contain seepages, has resulted, in the tail end farmers not been able to access water yet. The Government's threats, through its orders, to convert wet land use to irrigated dry through localization, which is advised by the World Bank with 1:3 ratio of wet and I.D. respectively is causing restlessness among farmers. Impact of irrigation in the Deltas is manifested by water logging and salination. This doesn't prompt the state to propose change of land use. This policy of overlooking the impact on environment arises out of the perception of the state that it would offend the powerful farming community and its fallout on state's politics. A small change in policy may spark off an agitation which was witnessed in the recent past in Coastal Andhra on account of the proposed increase of power tariff and irrigation cess.
Nizamsagar project, the earliest major project of Hyderabad state, across the river Manjira, a tributary of the river Godavari, is also affected with siltation thereby reducing its capacity from 29.73 tmc ft. to 25 tmc ft. The area proposed to be irrigated to the tune of 2.75 lakh acres has declined to about 1.00 lakh acres. There are various other schemes developed across the river Manjira to meet the drinking and industrial water needs of the city of Hyderabad. Under the Singoor project alone about 69 villages have been submerged and this has also happened to many other projects causing suffering to people of Telangana. The land use in the basins of Manjira and Musi is subjected to the continuous surveillance thereby denying the legitimate rights to subsistence irrigation needs to the drought prone districts of Medak and Rangareddy of Telangana. Rajolibanda Diversion Scheme was contemplated with 15 tmc ft. of water to irrigate 87,000 acres in severely drought prone Mahabubnagar district of Telangana was reduced to 6.51 tmc. ft. with an irrigable area of 50,000 acres (Eenadu). The much awaited Jurala project, was proposed with 28.2 tmc ft. and it is reduced to 17.84 tmc. ft. The project was to irrigate 1.02 lakh acres but ended with giving water to just 20,000 acres in Mahabubnagar district. Many proposals of lift irrigation in Mahabubnagar including Bhima are gathering dust. These are projected by successive Governments as proposals to be taken up in the plans and annual budgets for the sake of public consumption and more damagingly to procure funds which, in reality, are not used for the purpose.
The erstwhile state of Hyderabad along with that of Madras state conceived ,an irrigation project in 1930 at Nandikonda (Rao, 1979). The area contemplated for Telangana was about 7.9 lakh acres and 2.33 lakh acres for Andhra state (CBT & B, 1965 p. 152). The area of Telangana was reduced to about six lakh acres, one lakh acres through lift irrigation by Nagarjunasagar left bank canal has been left in the shape of the plan only. But the Visalandhra ideologues down through K.L. Rao, the siphon head of irrigation bureaucracy of Andhra region, conceived large area under Nagarjuna Sagar right bank canal and today it is irrigating coastal Andhra to the tune of 13.00 lakh acres against the original plan of 2.33 lakh acres.
Although there was a proposal of Srisailam irrigation scheme for 150 tmc. ft. in Telangana in front of Bachawat Tribunal, it has not been allocated even a drop of water for irrigation in Telangana and remains as a carry over reservoir, whose evaporation losses have been compensated by Bachawat award by allotting 33 tmc ft.(KWDT, 1976). The agitation for water in Rayalaseema gave rise to the committee in the year 1983. The Government of Andhra Pradesh appointed Technical Committee under the chairmanship of Raja Rao to assess the surplus water available in Krishna river. The committee in its report in 1985, estimated 300 tmc ft. surplus water in Krishna and allocated 30 tmc ft. for Srisailam Left Bank Canal (SLBC), 19 tmc ft. for Srisailam Right Bank Canal (SRBC), 29 tmc ft. for Telugu Ganga Project (TGP), besides the hitherto allocation of 15 tmc ft. for drinking needs of Madras (Rao, 1996). The Karnataka Government objected to surplus water as it would assume rights after 2001. However, the Government of Andhra Pradesh went ahead with the execution of TGP but left the SLBC to the confusion of confounding positions and statements. On account of the availability of more water in the river Godavari at Icchampally, some proposals were prepared under Icchampally project to irrigate through lift/gravity to the tune of 30 lakh acres and has remained at the stage of proposals.
The State's role in the irrigation environment of Andhra Pradesh, stands exposed on various fronts. Spatially, it has shown scant attention to drought and backwardness. Historically, it manipulated the planning, budgetary and execution of irrigation projects to the advantage of Coastal Andhra. Bureaucratic institutions created hurdles to delay the approvals and revisions at different stages. While negotiating irrigation in backward regions the state delayed the allocated budgets till last minute so that funds could be diverted to favored regions. Also the bias in favor of Coastal Andhra is evident in spending extra budgetary funds, early completion of projects, modernization of project, regular and repeated drainage and flood control works , construction of balancing reservoirs doubly assure irrigation.The River Water Controversy
The major river basins of Deccan portray the irrigation scenario differently. The Krishna river paints the picture of the exhaustion of its water and the river Godavari emerges with under utilization of its water. In the light of Alamatti controversy many questions surfaced pertaining to river water sharing by riparian states / regions. The Government of Andhra Pradesh is arguing that the increase of the height of Alamatti project would prevent the early flows resulting from south west monsoon in Krishna during normal rainfall and thus result in the non availability of water for crops in kharif season in large agricultural tracts under the commands of Nagarjunasagar and Prakasam barrage. It is argued further that if there is a failure of monsoon the commands would go dry not only during kharif but also rabi season. However, it is to be mentioned that the state of Karnataka had to utilize river waters within the allocated quantity by leaving the legitimate share of waters to the state of Andhra Pradesh located in the down stream of the river Krishna. Establishment of an independent Krishna River valley Authority is therefore needed to judiciously regulate/allocate water to the needy regions in the river basin. It is noteworthy to mention here that the availability of water in the river Krishna is more in the upper reaches as huge bouts of rain water result in western ghats due to south west monsoon. On the contrary the water availability in Godavari Basin is in the lower reaches particularly at the confluence of Indravathi at Icchampally.
Interestingly the large tracts of the irrigation commands of Andhra Pradesh fall in the Coastal Andhra districts of Krishna, Guntur and Prakasam, representing the numerically and economically strong Kamma caste population which forms the backbone of Telugu Desam Party (TDP) besides providing leadership to other mainstream parties of Congress, CPI and CPI(M). The enterprising Kamma peasantry is in the forefront in absorbing innovations and technologies in agriculture. In the early part of colonial transition the farming/business community of the region readily absorbed the colonial /commercial farming techniques and gave rise to monoculturisation of agriculture. During the times of Green Revolution, the region became a natural choice for internalizing the water intensive crops with heavy, modern input-based agriculture. In fact, the historical development of irrigation in this region has come handy in embracing and accumulating the new found benefits of Green Revolution and modem development. Apart from being the theatre for modern agriculture, the region with Kamma peasantry became a launch pad for many social movements like anti-brahmin movement, nationalist movement, linguistic movement etc. With such rich inheritance the peasantry / business class of the region diversified into various fields. The peasant/businessmen expanded their base by migrating to the areas of emerging opportunities due to the merger of Hyderabad State with Andhra Region and emerged strong in urban centers, industrial nodes, irrigation tracts, mining locations, black soil belts.
The political parties representing ruling and opposition in A.P. rallied behind TDP in orchestrating a chorus against Karnataka whereas the same parties BJP, Congress etc., in Karnataka opposed the Andhra Pradesh stand on Alarnatti. Meanwhile, the questions of the water needs of the semi-desert catchments of the river Krishna in Telangana region have come to the fore. Of late the intelligentsia in Telangana raised the question of their legitimate share of Krishna water. They questioned the disproportionate utilization of Krishna waters in favor of the Coastal Andhra by converting lands of extra catchment of the river as irrigated tracts. This has given rise to the unfolding of the distribution of the waters among the riparian regions. The tribunal (Bachawat) award legitimized the over utilization of water by the Coastal Andhra at the expense of the fragile drought ecosystem of Telangana.Politics of Irrigation Development
River-centric articulation of Telangana critiques the entire gamut of development and its socio-political initiatives. Historically, particularly from medieval period onwards, the society witnessed a few initiatives in the arena of tank irrigation which in fact have provided sustenance to semi-arid living, apart from serving the treasures of feudal states. The villages with unique presence of tank as a water body across the undulating Telangana landscape suffered setback with the onset of the rule of linguistic state. The juxtapositioning of the two historically different spaces - feudal and capitalist, under linguism has not only unveiled the neo-colonial development but also rejected the existence of hitherto decentralized water conservation system.
The leadership of Telangana has seen the century long irrigational benefits in Krishna Godavari Delta. And it has also witnessed a major political mobilization in Rayalaseema around Krishna river waters during the first quarter of twentieth century which culminated in Sri Bagh pact in 1937. The development of river waters to subsist the irrigational needs of drought prone territories of Rayalaseema became the major thrust of the agreement. Although the two processes have appeared before the dominant leadership of Telangana, they did not make water resources of Krishna and Godavari rivers as a major issue with statutory safeguards during the debate on formation of Vishalandhra. They stood mute witness to the arguments of the dominant caste leadership of the developed delta region and allowed claims over waters of two rivers before the SRC.
The Telangana leadership appended signatures to the Gentlemen's Agreement without even procuring proper statutory safeguards over the very vital and life saving river water resources belonging to the perennially drought prone territories of Telangana. Sharing of ministerial births dominated the agreement. It is callous on the part of the leadership coming from landlords to ignore the drinking and irrigational needs of the entire masses of Telangana. Perhaps, the feudal forces wanted the continuation of backwardness even after the demise of Nizam's feudal rule. The leadership developed through anti-Nizam armed struggle in Telangana was also swayed by the Coastal Andhra leadership.
Even after the formation of Andhra Pradesh the Telangana leadership was largely constituted by landed sections of the dominant castes - Reddy, Velama, which had never demanded a rightful share of river waters. This projects the fact, although it needs substantiation, that the landed sections of the dominant caste leadership have interests in continuation of backwardness of Telangana as the development is likely to percolate down the strata which may lead to the assertion of subalterns and therefore, the likely shift of power from status quoist arrangements. It also shows that the dominant caste/class forces of both the regions have developed nexus and would only pursue the policy of underdevelopment in the backward territories of the State.
Although a large number of irrigation projects like Bhima, Devanur, Icchampalli and also extension of Tungabhadra Left Canal into Mahaboobnagar, were on the anvil on the day of the formation of the state, the linguistic state sacrificed all the projects beneficial to Telangana and concentrated on the development of major irrigation through Nagarjunasagar by altering the Nandikonda project making it beneficial to Coastal Andhra. It is often stated that the very location of Nandikonda Project site was shifted to downwards so that the territories located in the higher elevations in Nalgonda and Khammam districts would not figure in the irrigational map. There was no protest registered by the Telangana leadership. If all the projects contemplated before the formation of state were to be executed the share of Krishna river water for Telangana would have increased manifold. The exploitative acts of Andhra rulers on the river water front had caused greater damage to the river water needs of Telangana.
In fact, the A.P. irrigation policy with an emphasis on major irrigation at the instance of Andhra leadership, coming from alluvial plains where tank irrigation is largely insignificant, has given rise to uneven development/irrigation policy of the regions with two different irrigation systems resulted in trying to eliminate the age old water conservation systems with chains of tank networks instead of taking up the complementary development. After the formation of the linguistic state, the government successfully ignored the maintenance and development of tanks land, allowed them to become unproductive through siltation, breaching etc to become advantageous to the down stream deltas by way of allowing the rain water to pass through the streams and rivulets.
Whatever little initiative has gone into tank irrigation has only facilitated the emergence of contractor class which gained enormously with brokerage and political employment. In fact there should have been an irrigation policy to renew tank, minor and medium irrigation by supplementing major irrigation as both the rivers pass through Telangana carrying heavy flows from the upper reaches. Therefore, the water bodies would have lessened the impact of drought and also the occurrence of drought.
At the instance of global powers and international institutions, the state is reformulating its irrigation policy. The elements of privatization through raising bonds are creeping into the policy making. The state is increasingly shedding its responsibility by assigning the irrigation to the Water Users Associations. This is again a step in the direction of privatization. Such acts of state only aggravate the already existing inequalities in the sphere of irrigation and agrarian economy and manifest sharply in the uneven regional development and exacerbation of drought and famine conditions in Telangana.
The developmental initiatives from the 1960s onwards in the form of Green Revolution have brought in new varieties of rice which are dependent on intensive inputs like water and chemical fertilizers and pesticides. In the absence of the surface water availability, the farmers are forced to go for borewell technology to draw subsurface water from greater depths which has resulted in uprooting of traditional water drawing technique which are sustainable and nature friendly. The borewells have also exerted pressure on the electrification as this is the only way of drawing water from tube well. Therefore the heavy boring of semi-arid surfaces and also the increase of electrification of pumpsets have given rise to the depletion of hydrological regime. Many bore wells are getting dried up at the instance of extensive pumping of water which resulted in the breaking down of the economy and causing serious unrest among the farmers of Telangana. The recurring drought was aided and abetted with hostile technology and water intensive commercial farming and the absence of surface water conservation development contributed to the complexity of life in Telangana and therefore, the process of marginalisation, migration and desertification.
Today drought is manifested in every facet of human life and it is particularly so with rural poor. The impact of drought is also experienced by animal and green cover. The fast depletion of grazing lands and also the non-availability of fodder are forcing the farmer to sell the cattle for slaughter. The exodus of people from rural areas has only made the living vulnerable. This has also proliferated the squatter settlements and slums in urban areas. The unabated migration that is going on from Coastal lands into Hyderabad for greater profits is also exerting pressure on services and infrastructure. Musi and Manjira rivers traverse the semi-arid lands of Rangareddy, Nalgonda, Medak and Nizamabad districts of Telangana. However, the large quantities of water from these rivers are diverted to subsist the industrial, drinking and other needs of Hyderabad. Otherwise, the rivers would have supplemented the water needs in these districts. Although some lands of Telangana were brought under major irrigation projects, a great number of Kamma peasantry migrated to the newly developed commands and displaced locals from land. The irrigation to wet the lands of local farmers in Telangana is also significantly cornered by migrant enterprising farmers of delta Andhra.
Irrigation politics in A.P. exposed the state's true colours of caste, class, regional bias and its machinations to promote their interests. The people of semi-arid regions in the face of monopolisation by entrenched interests are left with no option excepting constantly mobilising on regional, caste, class, resource fronts to fight against the man-made semi-arid environment of Telangana. People's articulation for democratising water resources is a natural corollary of this situation.References
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