For the first time since 1984, the West Bengal Minor Irrigation Department has raised irrigation charges from Rs. five per acre-inch at present to Rs. 17 per acre-inch.
Minister for Minor Irrigation Nanda Gopal Bhattacharya told reporters today the new rates would help his department mop up an additional Rs. 14 crore against about Rs. 200 crore spent annually to subsidise minor irrigation.
According to Bhattacharya, the government presently spent Rs. 140 crore annually in operational costs like paying salaries to pump operators, besides Rs. 22 crore in power costs and Rs. 16 crore in fuel costs for diesel-operated pumps.
He said even after effecting the new rates, the government will have to spend about Rs. 180 crore in subsidies.
To a question, he said while private irrigation providers were charging Rs. 80 per inch-acre, the government could not stop them under the existing rules. "While giving them permission for operation, all we ensure is that there is availability of water in the area and that power supply has been taken legally," he said.