Finance Minister Arun Jaitley released Rs. 1981.54 crore of funding through the National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development for Andhra Pradesh’s Rs 16,000 crore Polavaram irrigation project along the Godavari river on Monday and noted that this should put to rest the sense of distrust the people of the State had developed towards the Central government.
Mr. Jaitley stressed that returns on investments in irrigation projects for agriculture were visible this season, as opposed to investments in sectors such as manufacturing, where returns were visible only after ‘a reasonably long period.’ Such projects also led to social satisfaction and economic prosperity, he said.
The Minister was speaking at an event attended by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti, where funding was also disbursed to 99 irrigation projects in Gujarat and Maharashtra under the Long Term Irrigation Fund announced in Budget 2016-17.
“Using the water resource of the country to its optimal so that the farmers can benefit is one of our prime goals and it is very important that a very large part of our funding goes to this,” Mr Jaitley said.
The people of Andhra Pradesh were nursing a feeling of economic discrimination and unfair treatment since the division of the State. The BJP had forcefully raised the issue with the UPA government and that had brought some results.
“The then government made a commitment though no monies were allocated and very soon, the responsibility of fulfilling what we had said, fell on us. There are obviously challenges, but we were clear from the very first day, that every promise we had made in the form of assistance would be satisfied,” he said.
“Of course, the assistance would be spread over a period of time because of resource availability and I am glad today, the State has started showing a great sense of entrepreneurship and development already. Pending dues have started getting cleared and the State needs hand-holding for some time,” he pointed out.
Terming the issue of water in the State’s dry regions very sensitive, he said that it took some time for the Centre to find a way to fund the Polavaram project, but had finally done it.
“Not only does today’s event be the launching pad for a great project in Andhra Pradesh, but also restores a sense of confidence and trust in the people of AP. For the federal polity of India this is extremely important,” he said.
Referring to the learnings from Gujarat and Maharashtra which, he said, had taken significant strides on the irrigation front, he said, “If you remember Gujarat was virtually dry in regions such as Saurashtra, Rajkot, Kutch, but they worked ahead of time and over the last 15 years, its agricultural growth showed substantial enhancement.”