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Jharkhand Irrigation Crisis: Pending projects escalate costs

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Ranchi: Many irrigation projects in Jharkhand, several of them conceived over four decades ago, are still pending and thus draining Jharkhand’s exchequer. The cost of some projects has seen an escalation of around 50 times the original estimates.

Work on eight major and 18 medium projects is under way for the last two to three decades. The delay is not only financially hurting the tribal state, more than half of whose population lives below the poverty line, but also adding to the woes of the farmers, already reeling under successive droughts.

Take the case of the partially completed Swarnrekha Multi Purpose Project (SMPP), the biggest irrigation project in the state. Mooted in 1973, its cost was estimated at Rs 128.99 crore (almost $19 million) in 1978. The estimate was revised in 2011 to Rs.6,613.74 crore. Till February 2015, the expenditure was about Rs.3,575 crore.

The state government plans to complete the SMPP by 2017-2018, when it will irrigate more than 200,000 hectares of agricultural land against around 45,000 hectares it now services.

Besides the SMPP, there are scores of large, medium, and small irrigation projects pending in the state.

The Ajay Barrage was mooted in 1975 at an estimated cost of Rs.10.34 crore. This was upped to Rs.351.84 crore in 2007, and the total amount spent on it till 2015 is Rs.337.72 crore.

The project, on completion, will irrigate 40,510 hectares of land in Deoghar and Dumka districts.

According to officials, the canal work and other work of the project is nearly 90 percent complete.

Then, there is the Gumani irrigation project for Sahebganj and Pakur districts that was planned in 1976 at an initial estimate of Rs 3.83 crore. In 2007, the cost was upped to Rs 162.32 crore, and till 2015 the amount had been spent. Ninety-eight percent of the project’s canal work is now complete, officials say.

The oldest is the North Koel irrigation project. Mooted in 1970 at an estimated cost of Rs.30 crore, this has now been revised to Rs 814.73 crore.

Officials attribute the long delay in completion of the projects to several factors such as irregular funding, long-winded acquisition, and rehabilitation policies as also “inherent paradoxes”.

“The funding for the irrigation projects was stopped for almost 10 years from 1990. There are inherent paradoxes in the projects. Land of X person is submerged and Y person gets the benefits, causing public protests. The land acquisition, rehabilitation, and displacement policies, as also other factors delayed the projects,” Sukhdeo Singh, principal secretary of the Water Resources Department, told IANS.

The state government is expediting the pending irrigation projects and is trying to revive the lost potential of the completed projects.

According to the official, the state lost 200,000 hectares of the 300,000 hectares land in the completed irrigation projects due to lack of maintenance.

“In the next financial year (2016-17), we are planning to make budgetary provisions to restore the lost 200,000 hectares land of the completed project,” Sukhdeo Singh said.

Irrigation is a cause for concern in the state, in which the hilly areas and small landholdings is not conducive for farming. The state produces only half of its total consumption of food grains, while the state government declared the entire state as drought affected in the current financial year that ends on March 31.

As per official records, 23 percent of the cultivable land is fed through the irrigation system, but experts claim the actual area is only around 12 per cent.

Jharkhand’s total land area is 7.97 million hectares, of which 2. 97 million hectares are cultivable. (Nityanand Shukla, IANS)(Photo: Wikipedia)

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Know How Football is Protecting Tribal Girls in Jharkhand from Poverty, Trafficking and Child Marriage

"I was all awkward wearing the sports gear, and afraid of people judging me," she reminisced

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"Football has changed my stand in the society and without it, I would have simply dropped out of school like many other girls in my village," she said. Wikimedia Commons

As an uneducated tribal woman, Tetri Devi, 51, has seen many struggles, but seeing her youngest child, Anshu Kacchap, scale heights in football and visit the UK to play an inter-school football tournament has brought alive dreams, hopes and the zeal to continue her fight against the naysayers. Girls like Anshu are breaking the mould and smashing the glass ceiling with football.

Tetri revealed that when Anshu started playing football, everyone in the community, including her husband, was against the idea. “A girl wearing shorts and spending time playing football was not only looked down upon but was fiercely opposed by many. I remember being stopped by villagers concerned about me allowing the girl to play football and being called out for being a bad mother,” she said, adding that every snide comment she ignored and every advice she didn’t heed was “worth the trouble”.

With her husband unemployed for the larger part of the year, Tetri earns a living for her family of six – among them four daughters, of whom Anshu is the youngest – by selling Hadiya, a locally brewed rice beer in the nearby haats (rural market) in Pahan Toli, a remote village on the outskirts of Ranchi. Football has given her and her daughter a reason to dream again.

Anshu has been associated with OSCAR (Organization for Social Change, Awareness and Responsibility) Foundation’s football training programme, which runs from Chari Huzir on the outskirts of Ranchi, for five years now. She has not only represented Jharkhand in national tournaments but has also been one of the eight girls from Jharkhand who played in a UK Schools Tour, OSCAR ‘Kick Like a Girl’ in October last year.

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Not only has she inspired her elder brother to resume education, but also many other children in her village to become a part of the change that football has initiated in her life. Wikimedia Commons

The transformation through football wasn’t an easy one for the 200-odd girls who have taken to the sport around Irba and Kanke. Social stigma aside, acute poverty and challenges like the lack of even a single square meal, looming threats of early marriage and absence of support from their families have been a problem for these tribal girls, living about 30 kilometres from Ranchi. Through all the struggle, football has been their tool against fear, one kick at a time.

Shital Toppo, a student of commerce at a local college, said she was in disbelief when she found out she would be going to Russia in 2018 to watch a FIFA World Cup match as a part of the Football for Hope Movement, a project of FIFA to promote football as a medium for development and growth. She said the first time she went on the field, she couldn’t even manage to kick the ball for the first week.

“I was all awkward wearing the sports gear, and afraid of people judging me,” she reminisced. But it wasn’t all bad for Toppo, who played a friendly match with other members of the delegation from all over the world. She even befriended a representative from Brazil, Barbara.

“Football has changed my stand in the society and without it, I would have simply dropped out of school like many other girls in my village,” she said. Not only has she inspired her elder brother to resume education, but also many other children in her village to become a part of the change that football has initiated in her life.

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Social stigma aside, acute poverty and challenges like the lack of even a single square meal, looming threats of early marriage and absence of support from their families have been a problem for these tribal girls. Pixabay

For Tinky Kumari, 16, like hundreds of young girls in the area, an early wedding was supposed to celebrate her passing the matriculation examinations. Her elder brother, a school dropout himself, forced her to work as a farm labourer but football became her weapon of protest.

“My brother didn’t hesitate to beat me up just to stop me from playing football,” she recalled. She said her trip to the UK was a turning point as now everyone in her family has finally stopped talking about marrying her off. With her parents’ support, she is now continuing her education.

The narrative of how football empowered these village girls is a story that never fails to inspire. Helena Tete, 53, has been mentoring the girls since the early days of the programme. She has been a witness to the story of these girls and how football has empowered them to become what they are.

She recalled that when the training started in 2013, the girls taking part in the training were scared and hesitant. Their families were reluctant as they didn’t see a future in sports for them, she said. “Today, every time they play a national tournament or win a match, it is such a proud moment for us,” she added.

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The transformation through football wasn’t an easy one for the 200-odd girls who have taken to the sport around Irba and Kanke. Wikimedia Commons

Started in Chari Huzir in Kanke block, the programme by OSCAR foundation now covers eight different tolas (a group of villages). A few players from the training institute have made it to Under-15 and Under-17 teams of Jharkhand.

Though professional football will not be a part of the larger plan for many girls, for now they are rewriting their life through a sport that has helped them realise their worth in the world.

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“I started playing football when I was in class eight and I arrived on the field wearing a traditional skirt,” recalled Anshu. She thought people would make fun of her but instead, she became less conscious over time and mastered the sport.

She noted that the most important factor in her story was her mother’s decision to let her play. “As I teach young girls now, it feels good to be a person who others look up to,” added Anshu, who dreams of taking her football career forward along with higher studies. (IANS)