Posts Tagged ‘Punjab’
Bigger cities growing at a rate faster in the last decade than earlier decades. This is what the image shows us. These are 166 cities of India whose populations in 2014 were 300,000 and above. The jagged swatches of colour that seem to march diagonally across the image describe tiers of population, for the table is arranged according to the populations of these cities in 2015, with the annual series beginning in 1985 and extending (as a forecast) until 2030.
The populations of four cities will cross 0.5 million in 2015: Jalgaon (Maharashtra, whose population will be 506,000 in 2015), Patiala (Punjab, 510,000), Thoothukudi (Tamil Nadu, 514,000) and Imphal (Manipur, 518,000). They will join a group of cities which in 2014 crossed the 0.5 million mark: Gaya (Bihar, 508,000 in 2015), Rajahmundry (Andhra Pradesh, 511,000), Udaipur (Rajasthan, 517,000), Bilaspur (Chhattisgarh, 518,000), Kayamkulam (Kerala, 533,000) and Agartala (Tripura, 550,000).
Just ahead of these are Vellore (Tamil Nadu, whose population in 2015 will be 528,000 and which crossed 0.5 million in 2013), Mathura (Uttar Pradesh, 529,000 and 2014), Tirunelveli (Tamil Nadu, 530,000 and 2011), Sangli (Maharashtra, 545,000 and 2009), Tirupati (Andhra Pradesh, 550,000 and 2013), Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh, 556,000 and 2009), Kurnool (Andhra Pradesh, 567,000 and 2012), Muzaffarnagar (Uttar Pradesh, 587,000 and 2011), Erode (Tamil Nadu, 590,000 and 2010) and Cherthala (Kerala, 593,000 and 2013).
To make this chart I have used the data from ‘World Urbanization Prospects: The 2014 Revision’, from the United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. The 166 cities of India are extracted from the main table, ‘Annual Population of Urban Agglomerations with 300,000 Inhabitants or More in 2014, by Country, 1950-2030’.
The sweltering of North India, aggravated by manic urbanisation, just as manic use of personal automobiles, the steady thinning of tree canopies, and small businesses forced to buy diesel generators – in the tens of thousands, each emitting hot fumes that further trap already heated layers of sooty air – is an annual pre-monsoon epic that no-one has the energy to write.
This panel of four maps shows us where India baked during the last week of 2014 May (and now, Delhi has experienced a record its residents did not want). The high temperature belts (top left map), 40-45 Celsius, covered most of central and north-western India (Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Gangetic Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Delhi). Minimum temperatures (top right), 20-15 Celsius, are seen in two pockets – south interior Karnataka and in the North-East over Manipur and Mizoram.
These temperature maps may be read with the rainfall for the same period, 2014 May 25-31, to correlate particularly the temperature anomalies (how much higher or lower the normal maxima and minima have departed) with where it has rained. The rainfall map (lower left) shows rain having fallen over south Karnataka, but also north West Bengal and eastern Bihar, coastal Odisha and southern Haryana. These appear to relate to a group of anomalies (lower right): the first being interior Tamil Nadu, north-eastern Karnataka and adjacent Andhra Pradesh; the second being eastern Uttar Pradesh and adjacent Bihar. [You can get the four maps in this zip file.]
What these don’t show, but which the longer range forecast Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (Pune, Maharashtra) has on record, is that monsoon 2014 will not touch northern India until the fourth week of June. Rain-bearing cloud and wind systems will cover, in this forecast, peninsular India by around the 16th or 17th of June, but it will be another week before they deliver some relief to the cemented and asphalted surfaces of the National Capital Territory and its parched surroundings.
These very helpful maps are used by the Pune-based met researchers as part of their monsoon monitoring and forecasting partnership with several international climatoloigcal research institutes, chief amongst them the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the USA through its Climate Prediction Centre.
The Tropmet – as the Pune group is usually called – has bequeathed to us a definition (perhaps for this season only, subject to revision when climate change asserts itself) of monsoon rain that is in part scientific and in part geographic, which I think is a good sign (the Indian Meteorological Department will disagree, but we know better). The faster Tropmet decides to communicate in language appreciated, and understood, by Bharatiya citizens, the more said citizens will find an interest in correcting the misconceptions of scientists.
Tropmet says: “Rainfall within the summer monsoon season is mainly punctuated by the northward propagating monsoon intraseasonal oscillations (MISOs) with timescales of 30-60 days that manifests as spells of heavy rainfall and periods of quiescent rainfall, instead of a continuous deluge.” In the Konkan, we like our continuous deluge and the old-timers would have sixteen names for different sorts of deluge (and an equally rich chest of monsoon nouns for other sorts of rain).
About 470 kilometres along the Grand Trunk Road from Lahore (a large urban mass with an orange core in this map), first through Amritsar, then Jalandhar and Ludhiana, then past Patiala and Panipat, and on to New Delhi – an even greater orange core, engorged with its status as a national capital territory, feasting on uncountable megawatts of crackling electricity.
During the days of the undivided Punjab, both Lahore and Delhi were divisions of the province, the other three being Multan, Jalandhar (usually spelled ‘Jullundur’) and Rawalpindi (usually called ‘Pindi’, a name that eased the toils of newspaper sub-editors in the 1960s, when Pindi was Pakistan’s capital).
The burst of urban light due east of Lahore (it would be about 125 kilometres away) is the city of Faislabad. As with the chain of light that erupts into settlements along the Grand Trunk Road from Lahore to Delhi, Faislabad makes a great vibrant punctuation on the urban light map of historical Punjab, a solar flare jetting out from the cultural orb of old Lahore. Perhaps the chain marks the hasty passage of ‘halwa‘ and ‘adh ridka‘ (the Lahori ‘lassi‘) between one and the other.
South-westerly from Lahore another chain of urbanising sparklers marks the road to Multan, and the beginnings of a lattice – clearly discernible from the built-up nodes that are Ludhiana and Ambala – that connects hamlets and would-be highways into an evolving fractal shape is visible.
At times the dizzying fractal appears to be caught in swift metamorphosis, coloured an uncertain blue that Amritsar is awash in, but so are Ludhiana and Shimla (where Delhi’s acquisitive gentry spend week-ends), for here new neighbourhood wards spring up unplanned and unmarked but for the glare of new lights, so well captured in this cartographic curiosity.
This quarter, that is October to December 2013, a number of India’s cities will cross population landmarks. The 2011 Census fixed the country’s urban population at just over 311 million, a population that had grown over ten years by 31.8% (compared with the rural population growth of 12.3%).
What this means is that India’s cities and towns are adding to their numbers every year and every month at roughly the decadal rate seen for 2001-11. Each urban centre has recorded its own rate of population growth but all together, the rate of growth in the populations of India’s urban settlements has raised the number of Class I towns (those with a population of 100,000 and more) to 490 – the category had 394 in 2001!
So, for the last quarter of 2013, here are the new population marks that will be crossed:
* Tiruppur in Tamil Nadu (1,033,000), Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh (1,002,000), Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh (1,065,000), Mysore in Karnataka (1,047,000) and Guwahati in Assam (1,018,000) will all cross the million mark.
* Muzaffarabad in Uttar Pradesh (527,000), Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh (531,000), Vellore in Tamil Nadu (515,000), Udaipur in Rajasthan (504,000) and Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu will cross the 0.5 million population mark.
* Nellore in Andhra Pradesh (627,000), Malegaon in Maharashtra (614,000) and Durgapur in West Bengal (610,000) will cross the 0.6 million population mark.
* Puducherry (union territory, 708,000), Guntur in Andhra Pradesh (733,000) and Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh (714,000) will cross the 0.7 million population mark.
* Warangal in Andhra Pradesh (826,000) has crossed the 0.8 million population mark. Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh (987,000), Bhubaneshwar in Odisha (967,000) and Jalandhar in Punjab (928,000) will cross the 0.9 million population mark.
20140304 – Major update – Extensive new data tables have been made available for public use by the Census of India. These include: (1) Primary Census Abstract tables to the village and ward level, (2) consolidated top level datasheets for Population Enumeration Data, population living in villages, age data, and data on disability.
Here they are:
[Set 1] Primary Census Abstract Data (Final Population); Primary Census Abstract Data for Houseless (India & States/UTs – District Level) ; Primary Census Abstract Data for Scheduled Castes (SC) (India & States/UTs – District Level) ; Primary Census Abstract Data for Scheduled Tribes (ST) (India & States/UTs – District Level) ; Primary Census Abstract Data for Slum (India & States/UTs – Town Level) ; Primary Census Abstract Data Highlights – 2011 (India & States/UTs) ; Primary Census Abstract Data Tables (India & States/UTs – District Level) ; Primary Census Abstract Data Tables (India & States/UTs – Town/Village/Ward Level).
[Set 2] Villages By Population ; Village population Tables ; Percentage of population living in villages of various population size with reference to the total rural population: 2011 ; Percentage of villages and population by class of villages in 2001 and 2011 ; Statement showing the number of Villages of population 10,000 and above with their population: 2001-2011 ; Distribution of 10,000 villages of each class in All India and 10,000 population in each class of villages All India among the States and Union Territories.
[Set 3] Single Year Age Data – (India/States/UTs) ; Single Year Age Data for Scheduled Castes (SC) ; Single Year Age Data for Scheduled Tribes (ST) ; Five Year Age Group Data ; Five Year Age Data for Scheduled Castes (SC) ; Five Year Age Data for Scheduled Castes (ST).
[Set 4] Disabled Population by type of Disability, Age and Sex (India & States/UTs – District Level) ; Disabled Population by type of Disability, Age and Sex For Scheduled Castes (India & States/UTs – District Level) ; Disabled Population by type of Disability, Age and Sex For Scheduled Tribes (India & States/UTs – District Level).
20130903 – The Census 2011 as a data source is now two years old for the first indicators and preliminary estimates were released in 2011 June and July. Since then we have had regular releases from the world’s most detailed very large-scale enumeration of people.
The ‘primary census abstract’ is the most important record for a settlement, whether a rural hamlet or an urban town ward. This contains the population, gender ratio, literacy rate, proportion of children, the numbers of scheduled tribe and caste members, and also contains the four-fold break-up of the working population.
The Census of India has released the primary census abstract (PCA) to the district level for all states and union territories. On the website, you can get the tables for individual districts through a series of menus. Here, I have posted the xls data sheets for every state and union territory, and each sheet contains the PCA for all that state’s districts.
In alphabetical order (and with the state census code) they are: Andaman and Nicobar Islands (35), Andhra Pradesh (28), Arunachal Pradesh (12), Assam (18), Bihar (10), Chandigarh (04), Chhattisgarh (22), Dadra and Nagar Haveli (26), Daman and Diu (25), Delhi (07), Goa (30), Gujarat (24), Haryana (06), Himachal Pradesh (02), Jammu and Kashmir (01), Jharkhand (20), Karnataka (29), Kerala (32), Lakshadweep (31), Madhya Pradesh (23), Maharashtra (27), Manipur (14), Meghalaya (17), Mizoram (15), Nagaland (13), Odisha (21), Puducherry (34), Punjab (03), Rajasthan (08), Sikkim (11), Tamil Nadu (33), Tripura (16), Uttar Pradesh (09), Uttarakhand (05), West Bengal (19).
The Census of India has released the first batch of the primary census abstract. This is the heart of the gigantic matrix of numbers that describes India’s population (to be correct technically, India’s population as it was in 2011 March). The PCA, as it is fondly known amongst the tribe that speak its arcane language, is the final and corrected set of numbers of the populations of India’s states, districts, blocks and villages – this corrects, if such correction was required, the data used in the Census 2011 releases between 2011 and now, which were officially called provisional results.
This release of the PCA is detailed down to district level, and that means the block- and village-level releases are to follow. This gives us the rural and urban populations, the number of children between 0 and 6 years old and what gender they are, and it gives us the number of workers and dependents. Within workers, the PCA tells us who the ‘main’ and ‘marginal’ workers are (a distinction based on how much of the year they are employed). What is of great importance to our study of food and agriculture is that the data tell us how many cultivators and how many agricultural labourers there are.
Well then, without further ado, here is where you’ll find this new forest of numbers. First, there is a very good overview provided by the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India (that’s the official title of the organisation that carries out the world’s largest census operation, yes yes, there is one larger enumeration but this is the most detailed census in the world) and you can download it here (a big ppt of about 9MB). Then there is the page on which the PCAs of the states and union territories can be found, which is here.
If you’ve hurried over to that last page you will have found that the xls files that correspond to each state and union territory are coded. That is the state code, and in my work I have found it far more useful to have a set of xls files that are named with both the state (or UT) 2 or 3 character forms and their Census codes. So, here they are, in alphabetical order:
Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Delhi, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Lakshadweep, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha, Puducherry, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal. There, that’s all 35 – do let me know if any of these links are empty or pointing to the wrong file.
Which are the districts of India which grow the most rice? Let’s look at the country-level numbers for rice in 2007-08, in 2008-09 and in 2009-10. In 2007-08 the total tonnage reported by the rice growing districts was 90.071 million tons, grown in 553 districts that reported rice harvests, and which grew their rice over 41.306 million hectares (413,000 sq kilometres, a combined area bigger than Paraguay).
In 2008-09 the total tonnage reported by the rice growing districts was 93.148 mt, grown in 508 districts that reported rice harvests, and which grew their rice over 42.759 m ha (427,590 sq km, which is a combined area nearly as large as Iraq). In 2009-10 the total tonnage reported by the rice growing districts was 80.07 mt, grown in 408 districts that reported rice harvests, and which grew their rice over 34.978 m ha (349,780 sq km which is a combined area larger than the Republic of the Congo). [See also this earlier entry on rice-growing districts of India.]
So, looking at the rice totals, there were ups and downs even over three seasons – remember that the monsoon of 2009 was poor and we had drought conditions in many districts. I would have liked to include the data for 2010-11 at district level, but this is still minus West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh and I can’t understand why this is so because the regular ‘advance estimates’ released by the Ministry of Agriculture are supposed to be based on what the states send in as crop growing data every quarter. The three years before 2007-08 should help us understand these trends better and as soon as I collect and clean up data for those years I will add to this post. Meanwhile, you can download the spreadsheet of the top 20 districts for these three years here (xlsx).
Which are the districts that produce the most rice in India, year after year? Based on this three-season set, here’s what we have. In Andhra Pradesh the districts are East Godavari, Guntur, Karimnagar, Krishna, Nalgonda, Nellore and West Godavari. In Chhattisgarh it is Raipur. In Punjab the districts are Firozpur, Ludhiana, Moga, Patiala and Sangrur. In West Bengal the districts are 24 Parganas (South), Bankura, Birbhum, Burdwan, Hooghly, Midnapur (East), Midnapur (West) and Murshidabad.
How much do these top 20 (there are 21 top districts over these three years) by year contribute to the country’s total rice harvest? In 2007-08 they contributed 23.16 mt which was 25.7% of the total rice harvest; in 2008-09 they contributed 24 mt which was again 25.7% of the total; in 2009-10 they contributed 21.93 mt which was 27.3% of the total.
Using a tonnage-based ranking, we have seen how the top 20 rice-growing districts contribute around a quarter of India’s total rice harvest. How different are the top 20 from a group of 20 rice-growing districts further down in the tonnage ranking, for example the 20 districts between 40 and 59 for those years? And is the 40-59 group of districts more diverse (geographically) and have more growing variety (what else do they grow?) than is shown by the dominance of the same districts from West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab in the top 20?
Let’s see what the numbers say. In 2007-08 the 20 districts between ranks 40 and 59 (ranked by tonnage) together harvested 7.20 mt, in 2008-09 it was 7.17 mt and in 2009-10 it was 6.90 mt.
Hence in all three years this set of 20 contributed around a third less rice than the top 20. This is a difference which helps explain the big gap between the tonnage for districts even between those at 80th and 90th percentiles – see the quick comparison chart for how concentrated India’s rice production is in relatively few rice-growing districts.
This cursory look at three years’ data for rice and the districts it is grown in raise several questions. Most important, why do we have complete data (at district level) only until 2009-10 and not after? I find this puzzling since we have advance estimates (released by the Ministry of Agriculture four times a year) for major cereals, pulses and commercial crops even into 2012-13. On what data from the states are these advance estimates then based if we can’t see district figures?
Also, why is there still so much concentration of rice production – 25% to 27% of the total – in only 20 districts? Depending on how many districts report rice harvests in a year, these 20 comprise no more than 4% or 5% of the total rice-growing districts in India. The National Food Security Mission (which concentrates on rice, wheat and pulses) is active in 137 districts specifically for growing rice, so in what way is this concentration of production significant? More on this matter to follow.
Rice. Where was it grown the most in 2009-10 in India? Data from the Directorate of Economics and Statistics, Ministry of Agriculture, give us the answers only when we wrestle furiously with the perverse data reporting formats, when we wring the numbers out of heavily fortified tables and labour to arrange them in the simple arrays such knowledge prefers.
What did we find? That 408 districts reported some cultivation of rice. That the median amount of rice harvested per district in that year was 104,000 tons.
That at the 80th percentile, the harvest was 306,000 tons per district but that the 20th of the top 20 rice-growing districts (that was Raipur, in Chhattisgarh) grew 753,000 tons.
Where were the higher 19? Five were in Punjab, six in Andhra Pradesh and eight were in West Bengal. There are 13 districts which produced over 1 million tons of rice each.
Census 2011 also informs both the incumbent ‘sirkar’ and us that there are 22 districts in which literacy rates for the rural female population are above 74% (all 14 of Kerala’s districts are included). However, it is in the next 10% range of literacy rates – 74% to 64% – that gains since the 2001 census must be protected and this set includes 82 districts. It is a widely dispersed set, comprising districts from 21 states and union territories.
There are 11 from Maharashtra (including Sangli, Bhandara and Gondiya), 9 from Punjab (including Kapurthala, Gurdaspur and Sahibzada), 7 from Orissa (including Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara and Bhadrak), 7 also from Himachal Pradesh (including Una, Kangra and Solan), 6 from Tamil Nadu (including Thoothukkudi and Nagapattinam) and 5 from Gujarat (including Navsari and Mahesana).
The Office of the Registrar General of India, which administers the Census, has cautioned that all the data releases so far are still provisional figures. However, the implications are now plain to see, and give rise to a set of socio-economic questions which demographic and field research over the 12th Plan Period (2012-17) will enlarge and expand upon. Is there for example a correlation between districts whose rural populations have unfavourable female to male gender ratios and districts in which female literacy ratios are low? Comparing the bottom 100 districts under both conditions shows that there are only 12 districts in which both conditions are present (5 in Uttar Pradesh, 2 in Rajasthan, and 2 in Jammu & Kashmir).
Most encouraging is that there are 40 districts in which the ratio of the number of literate females to literate males (this is a different ratio from literacy rate), is 0.90 or better, ie there are 900 or more literate females to 1,000 literate males. In this set are all Kerala’s 14 districts but also 13 districts from the Northeast (from Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland).
The remainder are from island Union Territories, from the southern states (3 from Karnataka, 2 from Andhra Pradesh and one each from Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Puducherry), from hill states (2 from Uttarakhand, 2 from Himachal Pradesh) and one from Maharashtra. It is these districts that provide abundant reason for the allocation of a minimum 6% of GDP allocation for education – a long-standing commitment – which must begin to be fulfilled in the 2012-17 Plan period.
How will the Government of India consider these early indicators from Census 2011? How will India’s civil society and the great breadth of organisations – voluntary groups, people’s movements, rural foundations and the like – which have been delivering development ‘outcomes’, year after year, without the benefit of budgetary support but motivated by the plain fact that inequity still exists, how will this group see these indicators?
The Government of India revels in presenting contradiction as a substitute for careful, evidence-based and inter-generational planning. When downward trends – such as those seen in female illiteracy and in the gender ratios of the 0-6 age-group – have been slow over the last 25 years, there is a need to set long-term objectives that are not tied to the end of the next available Plan period, but which use a Plan direction to help achieve them. In this, the Approach Paper to the 12th Five-Year Plan has failed quite signally, because its authors have not drawn the only possible conclusions from the Census 2011 data presented till date. Yet others have done so, notably India’s civil society and its more responsive group of academics. Hence the abundance of contradictions in all major documents – the Approach Paper being the most important, annual Economic Surveys being another type – which seek to reassure one section while in fact underwriting the ambitions of another.
So we see that a state which must ensure provision of Right to Education to every child up to the age of 14 years, because it is constitutionally bound to do so, complains in the planning phase itself that scarce resources constrain it from carrying out its duties and therefore advises its citizens that measures like public-private partnership (PPP) should be resorted to. How will such cunning better the lives and present culturally relevant opportunities for the rural populations in the remaining 591 districts which are under the 0.90 ratio for literate females to literate males? What will the emphasis on vocational training (for the urban job pools) instead of people’s empowerment mean for the rural populations in 403 districts where this ratio is less than 0.75 – which means the number of literate rural females is under three-fourths the number of literate males – and in 69 of these districts it is even under 0.60 (25 in Rajasthan, 14 in Uttar Pradesh, 9 in Madhya Pradesh, 6 in Jammu and Kashmir)?
[This is the sixth of a small series of postings on rural and urban India, which reproduces material from my analysis of Census 2011 data on India’s rural and urban populations, published by Infochange India. See the first in the series here; see the second in the series here; see the third in the series here; see the fourth in the series here; see the fifth in the series here.]
An interesting short video from FAO on water management and cultivating responses to indeterminate (or insufficient) water stocks. In southern India, the climate is becoming unpredictable and drought more common , says FAO – and this indeed is the case for peninsular India in general. Indiscriminate pumping from shallow aquifers shared by many farmers has caused abnormal drops in water levels, most notably in northern and north-west India, in the states of Punjab and Haryana which were the Green Revolution model states. When a well goes dry, a farmer loses his crop. In Andhra Pradesh, said FAO, 6,000 farmers have been trained in groundwater management by a project run by Indian NGOs and guided by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. They have learned to monitor how much water is available underground at the start of the growing season. Then they only plant crops that need that much water.
Here is some background on the legacy of irrigation in India, and the administrative functions that large irrigation projects provided the state, whether that state was colonial (as a dominion of Great Britain) or independent (Republic of India). “At the beginning of the eighteenth century, India was the ‘irrigation champion’ of the world. While the colonial government initially neglected the maintenance and upkeep of the numerous but mostly small irrigation structures, it soon spotted the potential for large-scale canal irrigation as an economic enterprise and took to canal building as a business on a massive scale. In those days, there was much dissatisfaction with irrigation management among observers and investors who expected much higher financial return on irrigation investments.”
This is written by By Tushaar Shah in the chapter, ‘Past, Present, and the Future of Canal Irrigation in India’, found in ‘India Infrastructure Report 2011 – Water: Policy and Performance for Sustainable Development’, (Oxford University Press 2011).
“Yet, in retrospect, around 1900, canal irrigation systems in India were arguably in a far better state than today in terms of their operation and maintenance (O&M), productivity impacts, and financial returns. If we look at the situation ten years ago, around 2000, while the new welfare state had kept alive the colonial tradition of big time canal construction, the management of canal irrigation had become pathetic in terms of all the criteria on which it excelled a century ago.”
“The dominant view about the way out is that farmer management through water user associations can restore canal irrigation to its old glory. However, this may not be the correct thinking. Shah has argued that the larger socio-technical fundamentals in which canal irrigation can thrive in a smallholder agrarian setting were all mostly present around 1900 and are all mostly absent today.”
The colonial irrigation management was a high input-high output affair, said Shah. A vast authoritarian bureaucracy reaching down to the village level used forced labour to maintain canal network, managed water distribution, and undertook ruthless water fee recovery on all lands deemed to be irrigated.
In the canal commands, the canal water ‘tax had to be paid regardless of whether or not use was made of the canal in a particular year or whether or not there was a reliable supply from the canal’ (Hardiman 2002: 114). This, according to Hardiman, encouraged, even forced, farmers to grow valuable commercial crops to generate cash. It also resulted in much litigation from dissatisfied zamindars who put pressure on canal managers to ensure water delivery and maintain canals. The amounts provided for O&M were substantial so that deferred maintenance was minimal.
As a commercial venture, the performance of canal irrigation has decidedly declined over the past 100 years. D.R. Gadgil, the pioneer of Indian economic planning, had argued that, in a poor agrarian economy like India, public irrigation investments should be judged on their social and economic returns rather than their financial returns. Soon after Independence, irrigation charges were drastically reduced; and even these declined to a small fraction. Have public irrigation investments in free India delivered the irrigation—and the socio-economic returns they were designed for as Gadgil had hoped? Unfortunately, the answer to the question is ‘No’; and there lies the heart of the problem. The financial rot was the harbinger of a much deeper crisis of stagnation and decline in public irrigation systems whose social and economic returns turned out to be far smaller than imagined.