Not just a failure of monsoon

Its a failure of governance

A good monsoon adds 3% to India’s economic growth rates. Yet, even decades after independence, Indian governments have done nothing to systematically address the acute dependency of the agricultural sector on the monsoons. A combination of markets and modern irrigation systems can go a long way in addressing this dependency – yet, Indian governments find it easier to fatalism and cloud-watching than to actually do something about it. Omkar Goswami of CERG Advisory argues that India’s dependence on the monsoon is just plainly the result of bad governance.

That brings me to the issue of a long-term failure of governance. No large continental country like India with a national income of over $540 billion is so crucially dependent upon monsoons. Our enslavement to rain might have been acceptable from independence up to the late Sixties. After all, we were an abjectly poor country when we got our freedom, and one could therefore give the Central and state governments a grace period of over two decades to get the irrigation systems right…

Even these numbers are suspect. Anyone familiar with agriculture will vouch that many minor and medium irrigation canals exist only on paper. These worked at some point of time; but years of neglect and silting have rendered them quite useless. Besides, most tubewells don’t work the way they should because of the lack of electricity and a significant decrease in the water tables. However, they remain in the official statistics. A more accurate estimate of properly irrigated area would be around 33 per cent of gross sown area. So, 57 years after independence, two-thirds of the cultivated area of this country still depends upon the vicissitudes of rain.

This sad state of affairs is entirely a function of poor governance. For decades, state governments have spent increasingly vast amounts of money on paying salaries to their bloated bureaucracies at the expense of irrigation and power — the two critical ingredients for consistently successful agriculture. Indeed, the classic conundrum of good governance is that the states which are the poorest often have the worst governance. [Telegraph]