GUWAHATI, July 20 � Irrigation Minister Dr Ardhendu Kumar Dey today told the State Assembly that the contractors of the Department have been asked to complete the under-construction major irrigation projects like the Dhansiri, within 2013. Or else, they would be blacklisted, said the Minister while replying to the debate on the demand for grant of Rs 111030.06 lakh of the Department.
He admitted that only 20 per cent of the total cultivable area of the State could be irrigated so far and 165 schemes of the Department are non-functional as of today.
The main disease afflicting the Department is its dependence on the contractors. There are over 50,000 contractors registered with the Department at present and this number of contractors has emerged as the barrier between the Department and the farmers, he said.
The Minister said that he had placed written request with the MLAs to submit schemes on their own, for their own constituencies with a view to overcome the problem of this barrier. Now on, the MLAs would be involved in preparing the schemes. But, if the MLAs depend on the contractors in preparing their project proposals and the schemes become contractor-oriented, the Minister said, they would be held responsible, he warned.
He also assured that the Department would look into the suggestion of the MLAs that a system should be evolved, with the involvement of the MLAs, to monitor the schemes of the Department.
He also informed the House that in the areas under the Nalbari and Rangiya Legislative Assembly Constituencies, people refrain from farming activities, despite the irrigation facilities being made available to their farmland, citing the reason that their able men are engaged in services.
Altogether 19 MLAs took part in the debate on the demand for grant of the Department. Taking part in the debate, Dr Bhumidhar Barman (Congress) suggested that the non-functional schemes should be made functional in phases, while the functional ones should be kept operative with due care.
He laid stress on popularizing the traditional dong (flowing river/spring waters through canals according to the natural gradience) system mostly applied by the farmers of the North Kamrup areas. Besides, he said, another tradition of digging ponds inside the farmland areas should also be popularized.
Further, he said, the owners of the shallow tube wells installed with the help of Government subsidies should be persuaded to help in irrigating the farmland adjacent to their plots. Considering the rising prices of diesel, dependence on diesel pump sets should be avoided as far as possible. Instead, he said, electric power-run pumps should be used to irrigate the tilling fields.
Monowar Hussain (AIUDF), said that it seemed in most of the cases that the schemes are taken for the reason of 'implementing the schemes only for schemes sake.'
The attitude of the Department's officers that they are not to pay attention for the proper running of the schemes should be done away with. In each of the districts of the State, monitoring committees should be set up involving the MLAs, he said.
Jadab Deka (BJP) said that the assertion of the Irrigation Minister on the size of the irrigation potential created by his Department was fictitious.
Keshab Mahanta (AGP) said that there should be fixed time-frame for completion of the under-implementation projects. Moreover, the stress should be on the flow schemes, which do not require any power for their operation and the lift irrigation schemes that were set up about 40 years back should be modernized to meet the present situation.
There is the need also of handing over the maintenance part of the schemes to one department, he said.
Sarat Saikia and Arun Phukan (both Congress) laid stress on minor irrigation projects considering their economic etc viabilities.
Lokheswar Brahma (BPF) laid stress on completing the Dhansiri Irrigation Scheme, which is lying incomplete for the past about 36 years.
Among others, Swapan Kar (AIUDF), Prasanta Phukan, Ranjit Das and Jadab Deka (all BJP), Binanda Saikia, Ranjit Barthakur, Kamalakshya De Purakayastha, Jayanta Malla Bujarbarua and Pallab Lochan Das (all Congress) also took part in the debate.