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Reason behind Maharashtra’s failure in solving drought issue

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Maharashtra: One can get deceived about the worsening farm crisis in Marathwada, the central region of Maharashtra. The reason is the man named Jairam Jadhav. He comes from a place that is battling against the worst drought in a period of a century.

Jadhav, 35, is a happy man. Despite two seasons of truant rains, his well has enough water to supply his 20-acres of sugarcane, cotton and pigeon pea farms for three hours a day. Last year, this time, he could do no better than an hour.

Thanks to the Maharashtra government’s ambitious Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan (Irrigated Farmlands Programme), streams flowing through Jadhav’s village of Pandharwadi in the district of Beed were broadened, deepened and de-silted before the monsoons. His land is next to one of these refurbished streams, which allow more water to percolate through to his well.

About 250 km to the northeast in Vidarbha’s Washim district, Ramesh Marge, 35, is also pleased with the government’s efforts. His 45 acres of soya bean and cotton he’s also planted some pulses and vegetables in Gayaval village are flourishing.

Marge is acutely aware of the great dry that has descended on the lives of farmers.

“When I was a kid, I used to bathe buffaloes in plenty of water in January and February. We do not see water in our village in October now,” said Marge. “Last year, we did not have enough water to wash our cattle during the pola (the summer harvest’s farm festivities, usually in October).”

In the same village, Shankar Choure showed IndiaSpend how his decade-old orange orchard is blooming. Thanks to a bund-built under the Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan that traps water, he runs four pumps to irrigate his 100 acres of farmland.

Choure, Marge and Jadhav have one thing in common they are prosperous farmers with comparatively vast landholdings in a state where the average landholding is 1.44 acres, down from 1.86 acres two decades ago, according to Agricultural Census of India.

The proportion of small farmers (owning less than five acres) increased from 70 percent to 79 percent in the 1995-2011 period.

So, while the Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan intends to make Maharashtra drought-free by 2019, it appears to have worked mainly for prosperous farmers. As the first part of this series showed (on January 2), a piecemeal approach of random work that ignores the geological water cycle of an area a watershed and spreads itself thin as the drought’s ravages spread is not helping millions of smaller farms.

In Choure’s village of Gayaval that has the most number of Jalyukt Shivar projects in the taluka about 60 percent of farmers own less than five acres of land. More than 10.7 million of the state’s 13.7 million farmers (or 79 percent) own less than five acres of land, according to the Agricultural Census of India. It is these farmers who bear the brunt of the drought.

Twelve times as many tankers roam 16 times as many villages

The Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan is nothing if not ambitious it aims to irrigate 19,059 of 40,000 villages in Maharashtra in 22 drought-affected districts by 2019. As many as 41,000 of proposed 0.14 million watershed projects have been completed in one year, according to the government.

Around 24 tmc feet (thousand million cubic feet) water storage capacity has been added in the state due to the Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said in an interview.

On the ground, the drought’s effects grow, and more villages struggle.

Over the annual farming season in 2014, 1,377 villages from Beed in central Maharashtra were declared water scarce this year 1,403 villages are on that list. The government also declared as water-scarce 2,050 and 793 villages in the eastern districts of Yavatmal and Washim respectively in 2014, while no district was declared water-scarce over the 2015 kharif (monsoon) season.

In 2014, as a consequence of mostly adequate rainfall the previous year, 13 tankers supplied drinking water to 15 villages in Beed district. In 2015, two consecutive droughts compelled the administration to send more than 12 times the number of tankers to 16 times as many villages: 162 tankers roam 243 villages.

In spite of consecutive droughts, Yavatmal and Washim districts have sent no tankers out. That may happen in the summer months of April, May and June when the scarcity deepens.

Small and marginal farmers, defined as those with less than five acres of land, need Jalyukt Shivar the most. From the observations that IndiaSpend made, this is why the scheme is failing them.

In a typical village with 250 houses, only 30 to 50 benefit from the scheme, which is no more than 10-20 percent, while 80 percent have small farms.

Prosperous farmers tend to be near streams and wells, so they mainly benefit from the broadening and deepening. Wells in the same village located away from these streams have run dry, the inadequate attention to geological detail and local needs evident.

Malampatti (band-aid) cannot offer lasting solutions to irrigation crisis.

“Although short-term measures are needed, that is only malampatti (band-aid solutions),” said Suresh Khanapurkar, the brain behind what is called the Shirpur Model for water conservation in the northern district of Dhule.

“There is no doubt that the depth and breadth of streams need to be increased,” he said, “but the broadening and deepening must be carried out from the origin to end (where it meets a river).”

The total storage capacity in Maharashtra is around 1,340 TMC, of which 930 TMC is stored in large dams and 170 TMC each in medium and minor storage dams. Water storage in the state is thus heavily tilted toward large dams.

With Fadnavis himself criticising large dams for their ineffectiveness in mitigating the drought’s effect, Jalyukt Shivar will need to play an important role in rescuing the livelihoods of 10 million farmers with holdings of five-acre or less.

Robert Browning said of human aspirations “Man’s reach should exceed his grasp.” Jalyukt Shivar has grasped the need, but its reach is inadequate.(IANS)

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GST’s outcome: 2017 registered as the most significant year for economy since Independence

The new indirect tax regime unifying the Indian market has four tax slabs of 5, 12, 18 and 28 per cent.

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Earlier this year, World Bank announced that India had jumped 30 places in its Ease of Doing Business rankings
Earlier this year, World Bank announced that India had jumped 30 places in its Ease of Doing Business rankings

New Delhi, Dec 25: The 70th year since Independence will go down in Indian history since the country switched over to the  (GST) regime, realising, thereby, the vision of a unified market in a federal system that guided the nationalist bourgeoisie in joining Mahatma Gandhi’s struggle to liberate India from the British.

Of course, the structural reform came accompanied by pain for trade and industry caught off-guard by the rigours of new compliance procedures. Queried by corporate leaders at industry chamber Ficci’s 90th AGM here earlier this month on how GST was impacting through lower tax collections, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley put the onus on them.

“It is you from industry, who have been calling for so long to bring GST… and no sooner do these initial problems in implementing a reform of such scale appear, then you want to go back to the system we’ve had for 70 years,” he said.

The earlier system was a myriad of central and state taxes where the movement of goods was slowed down by-products being taxed multiple times and at different rates.

State level taxes replaced by the pan-India GST include state cesses and surcharges, luxury tax, state VAT, purchase tax, central sales tax, taxes on advertisements, entertainment tax, various forms of entry tax, and taxes on lotteries and betting.

Central taxes replaced by GST are service tax, special additional customs duties (SAD), additional excise duties on goods of special importance, central excise, additional customs duties, excise on medicinal and toilet preparations, additional excise duties on textiles and textile products, and cesses and surcharges.

The new indirect tax regime unifying the Indian market has four tax slabs of 5, 12, 18 and 28 per cent.

It has a novel feature whereby goods and services providers get the benefit of input tax credit for the goods used, effectively making the real incidence of taxation lower than the headline taxation rate.

Indian economy has surged many folds after the introduction of new tax structure
Indian economy has surged many folds after the introduction of new tax structure

The second half of the year saw a radical reworking of the items within the four-slab tax structure by the supremely federal institution of the GST Council, whereby all but 50 of over 1,200 items remained in the highest 28 per cent bracket. Those retained included luxury and sin items, the cess on which goes to fund the compensation to states for the loss of revenue arising from implementing GST.

With the Council’s decisions last month, GST has been cut on a host of consumer items such as chocolates, chewing gum, shampoos, deodorants, shoe polish, detergents, nutrition drinks, marble and cosmetics. Luxury goods such as washing machines and air conditioners have been retained at 28 per cent.

Eating out has become cheaper as all restaurants outside high-end hotels charging over Rs 7,500 per room will uniformly levy GST of five per cent. The facility of input tax credit for restaurants has, however, been withdrawn as they had not passed on this benefit to consumers.

Petroleum, including oil and gas, is a strategic sector that is still not under GST, while the industry has been pushing for its inclusion so as not to be deprived of the benefits of input credit.

Including real estate is another matter pending before the GST Council.

On the functioning of the Council, Jaitley who is its head had this remarkable insight about the way in which it had effected such large-scale rationalisation of the item rates in a short span of “3-4 months”.

“Everything has been achieved by consensus in the best spirit of cooperative federalism. There has been no politics, even from states which are controlled by opposition parties,” he told a gathering of industry leaders here.

The other side of GST was revealed through what the International Monetary Fund described as “short-term disruptions”.

With businesses going into a “de-stocking” mode on inventories in anticipation of the GST rollout from July and sluggish manufacturing growth, among other factors, pulled down growth in the Indian economy during the first quarter of this fiscal to 5.7 per cent, clocking the lowest under the Narendra Modi dispensation. Breaking a five-quarter slump, a rise in manufacturing sector output, however, pushed the growth rate higher to 6.3 per cent during the second quarter (July-September) of 2017-18.

Besides, technical glitches appearing on the GST Network portal, often unable to take a load of the last-minute rush to file returns, marred the filing of returns by traders, forcing the government to postpone filing deadlines several times. The glitches also led to export refunds piling up, resulting in a grave situation of the cash crunch for exporters, whose working capital was getting blocked.

In the final analysis, the GST balance sheet is provided by Gita Gopinath, Professor of International Studies and Economies at Harvard University, who is also the economic adviser to the Kerala Chief Minister.

“GST is a real reform. It is a way of formalising the economy. It is a very effective way of ensuring tax compliance, making it harder to earn black money. I mean, nothing ever goes away completely, but it just makes it harder to make it happen,” Gopinath said in Mumbai earlier this month. 

The icing on the cake came with the World Bank announcing earlier this year that India had jumped 30 places in its Ease of Doing Business rankings to get among the top 100 countries on the list. Though reforms in India’s direct tax regime figured among the parameters considered in the evaluation, GST had not been taken into account by the multilateral agency since their cut-off date was June 30. IANS