GUWAHATI, March 25 � Admitting shortcomings in monitoring of irrigation projects over the years, the State government today said that a strict tab would be kept on various schemes and importance would be placed on small irrigation projects to provide water to the farm sector in Assam.
Replying to discussion on the cut motion on Demands for Grants of the Irrigation Department in the Legislative Assembly, Minister for Irrigation and Soil Conservation Chandan Sarkar said, �The kind of monitoring which should have been kept on the department over the years was not done. I accept that.�
Stating that irrigation had potential to bring about a massive socio-economic transformation in the State, Sarkar said he would keep a close tab on the projects.
He said the present government had only one year left of its term and during this time focus would be on small irrigation projects which could yield results in a short time.
�We will also make an effort on rejuvenating defunct projects,� said the Minister.
Regarding complaints by MLAs about mismanagement and embezzlement of funds in irrigation projects, Sarkar said he will discuss the matter with the Chief Minister and investigations would be carried out if necessary.
�Let local MLAs suggest what kind of irrigation projects they require in their areas,� he said and added that the tendering system would be streamlined.
�Have faith. We will bring changes,� Sarkar said.
Earlier, participating in the discussion, MLAs lambasted the role of Irrigation Department over the years and it has failed to address the needs of the agriculture sector in Assam.
Gul Akhtara Begum of AIUDF said that only 4.9 per cent of Assam�s agriculture area is irrigated as against 98 per cent in Punjab.
She said that of the 1,336 irrigation projects in the State, only 214 are fully functional. She cited examples of Dhubri district where 16 contractors were allegedly given tender for one project worth Rs 12 lakh.
Mukunda Ram Choudhury of AGP said that work on many projects announced decades ago have yet to be completed and termed the Irrigation sector as a big failure.
His party colleague Keshab Mahanta said that local MLAs should be involved in formulating irrigation projects, instead of the department only relying on contractors.
Other MLAs including Prasanta Phukan of BJP, Mujibur Rahman of AIUDF, Rakheswar Brahma of BPF and Debabrata Saikia of Congress also spoke during the discussion.