Succour is finally on the way for farmers at the 'killing' cotton fields of Vidarbha, which continues to be in the news for escalating farmer suicides.
While presenting the budget on Friday, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee announced an allocation of Rs. 300 crore to the Vidarbha Intensified Irrigation Development Programme for bringing in more agricultural areas under the 'protective irrigation' category.
Analysts say Vidharbha's cotton growers - who form the bulk of those committing suicides - are ill-suited to reap the benefits of high-yielding, genetically-modified BT cotton varieties because their lands lack assured irrigation. The entire region is drought-prone and experts say that unlike Gujarat, it is unsuitable for growing BT-cotton.
Also, to pump in more resources for expanding the irrigation network across India, Mukherjee announced the setting up of an Irrigation and Water Resources Finance Company (IWRFC) to mobilise large resources for funding irrigation projects.
To be operationalised in 2012-13, IWRFC would focus on financing projects, micro-irrigation, contract farming, waste water management and sanitation.
This will be over and above the enhanced allocation for the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme. The allocation for the programme is being stepped up by 13% to Rs. 14,242 crore in 2012-13.
With two-thirds of the country's population dependent on agricultural income, these initiatives are expected to usher in reforms to strengthen the country's irrigation network.
At present, 60% of India's farms do not have any form of assured irrigation, and are dependent solely on the monsoon.