Maharashtra sits on multiple irrigation acts, doesn’t bother to frame rules


 

 

Published: Saturday, Sep 1, 2012, 9:45 IST
By Sandeep Pai | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

Farmer suicides in Maharashtra are more a routine than an exception. Everyone knows drought is to blame, but the state government, too, cannot shirk its responsibility.

While successive governments have created several irrigation acts, none bothered to frame rules. Absence of proper framework and foundation for water management precipitates drought conditions as irrigation projects suffer.

“If act is the soul, rules are the body,” Rajan Ksirsagar, a Communist Party of India (CPI) trade union leader, said. “It is impossible to implement an Act without rules. Strangely, governments have ignored this problem.”

The major irrigation acts are: Maharashtra Irrigation Act, 1976 (MIA), five Irrigation Development Corporation Acts (one each for five Irrigation Development Corporations, enacted between 1996 and 1998), Maharashtra Management of Irrigation Systems by Farmers Act, 2005 (MMISF) and Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority Act, 2005 (MWRRA).

Except MMISF, none of the others has any rules. MIA is the parent act because it is supposed to provide the state with a water management structure. “And implementing the other acts, IDC, MMISF, and MWRRA, depends on how MIA is implemented,” Pradeep Purandare, former associate professor, faculty of engineering, Water and Land Management Institute in Aurangabad, said.

Thirty-six years have passed since MIA was passed. None of the governments to date has formed rules pertaining to the act.If there are no rules for any of the acts, what does the government follow? Ancient rules framed in the British era, mainly Bombay Canal Rules, 1934, and Central Provinces & Berar [CP&B.]Rules are followed even today. These old rules are, expectedly, based on old acts like the Bombay Irrigation Act of 1879.

These old rules are incompatible with MIA since ground reality and water management practices have changed with time. In some cases, MIA has even repealed certain rules. l Turn to p3

An act is the intention of law describing the applicability, defining governing provisions, explaining fines and penalties and how it should be applied.

And rules are the prescribed methods and procedures in relation to any provision contained in the act. “Without any legally prescribed method, water management has become a big headache,” Purandare said.

It is well known that extensive areas in the Vidarbha belt and other areas are prone to drought. Since MIA has no rules, there is rampant water theft. Anybody can get away by stealing water because there is nothing “prescribed as per rules made under this act”. So, if someone is caught stealing, he/she cannot be prosecuted while farmers do not get any water.

What this means is MIA, a parent act, cannot be implemented. And this has a cascading effect on the other acts — IDC, MMISF & MWRRA. None can be implemented. “An unprecedented legal crisis would crop up if someone were to move court,” Purandare said.

The MWRRA Act has provisions to resolve disputes. But it is not in force because there are no rules pertaining to the act. “With no rules in place, guidelines to classify crime and punishment or how appeals should be processed are unclear,” Mandar V Sathe of the Resources and Livelihoods Group, Prayas,said.

Also, compensation to farmers in case of water scarcity is arbitrarily fixed because there isn’t any prescribed procedure for day to day functioning.

Ideally, if rules were in place then the quantity of water based on what crop is cultivated would be fixed. “Several instances have come to the fore, where farmers have lost out on compensation because there is no proper,” said CPI trade union leader Ksirsagar.

The absence of proper rules leads to confusion over responsibility and accountability. Canals maintenance is irregular because the powers and duties of a canal officer are not fixed. The MIA says a canal officer’s duties must be specified once rules are framed.

 

Bar GM food crops, says parliamentary panels #BTbrinjal #Goodnews


basudeb

The committee found that the present regulatory system in our country which comprises of Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) is inadequate and the regulatory system needs to be more robust, ensuring severe scrutiny.Basudeb Acharia
Chairperson, parliamentary committee on agriculture

A parliamentary committee has recommended halting all field trials of genetically modified (GM) seeds and sought an independent probe into how the government had accorded approval to Bt brinjal, a seed that was developed by Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co. Ltd (Mahyco).

Though it’s not mandatory for the government to accept the parliamentary standing committee’s recommendations, the suggestions of several such panels have significantly influenced government policy. Former environment minister Jairam Ramesh in 2010 imposed a moratorium on the sale of Bt brinjal seeds in India.

The recommendations of the panel comes a day after the Maharashtra government cancelled Mahyco’s licence to sell Bt cotton seed in the state. This was after allegations that the company had misinformed state agricultural officials on the availability of Bt cotton seeds for farmers.

Mahyco said in a statement that it will wait to hear from the government before addressing issues around the ban.

“In India, where 82% of the agriculture industry is of small farmers and where there is huge biodiversity, we should not go for GM foods. Even if we take the argument that we have to increase our food production according to the demands, we should look into indigenous ways to enhance it,” said Basudeb Acharya, chairman of the standing committee on agriculture and a leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

Pointing out that the introduction of Bt cotton was not discussed in Parliament before it was introduced in the country, Acharya said there was neither a study on its impact on cattlefeed made out of the cotton seeds, nor was any specific regulatory body to ensure food safety and standards.

The parliamentary panel, which met around 1,500 farmers in Goregaon in Maharashtra, also found they were left with no other alternatives to Bt cotton seeds in the market.

“The production cost, which was reduced due to less usage of pesticides, has been increasing,” Acharya said. “And we found largest number of suicides were reported from the areas where Bt Cotton is grown.”

The committee also pointed out that Ayurvedic medical practitioners have complained it had an adverse impact on the medicinal plants grown in the area.

The panel’s study on Cultivation of Genetically Modified Food Crops—Prospects and Effects is among the most extensive studies conducted by a parliamentary standing committee. The panel received 467 memorandums, 14,862 documents and reviewed evidences given by 50 organizations during its 27 sittings on the subject.

While Bt cotton is the only GM plant that’s allowed to be cultivated, several private companies have been looking at introducing different kinds of GM seeds, including rice, tomato and wheat.

Following protests from civil society groups and farmers, several state government’s have banned trials of GM crops.

To bring greater transparency in the way crops are tested, the government has proposed an independent regulator, called the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India. Legislation to set up the authority has been pending for two years.

Earlier this year, the ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution ruled that all packaged food that was sourced from GM ingredients had to be labelled so.

The “report vindicates the concerns and positions taken by many state governments in India, such as Bihar, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, etc., which have disallowed GM crops, including field trials. It also vindicates the larger public demand not to allow GM crops into our food and farming systems” Sridhar Radhakrishnan, convener of the Coalition for a GM-Free India, a group that is opposed to the introduction of GM crops, said in a statement.

jacob.k@livem

 

Ban on Mahyco seed sale
Maharashtra Government has cancelled the licence of agriculture seed major Mahyco, to sell Bt cotton seeds in the state, following complaints.

Minister for Agriculture Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil said the state government was left with no option but to cancel the company’s licence, given the serious nature of the complaints. “The government has cancelled the licence of Mahyco to sell with immediate effect,” Pune-based state Agriculture Commissioner Umakant Dangat told PTI over phone. “We were hearing several complaints against them from last 2-3 years. They did advance booking but did not supply seeds. Last year, there was an acute seed shortage in the state,” Dangat said.

Mahyco did not give us its seed distribution programme for this year. There were complaints that seeds were sold in Beed and Jalna districts at inflated prices, he said.

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