Agriculture - the irrigation problem

Increasing irrigation coverage and thus reducing dependence on monsoon is one of the key ways to reduce the risk in Agriculture (farming to be precise). Over the years successive Governments have made Irrigation the focal point of their policy. In just the last 10 years, Central and State Governments put together have spent US$125bn on irrigation projects.

And while irrigation coverage has increased, irrigation coverage is still around 50% - implying half the land is still dependent on monsoon for the crops. In the 70 years since Independence, irrigation coverage has increased from high teens in the early 1950s to just under 50% as of 2017. While that is impressive, given the public discourse on this topic from successive governments, this seems like a subpar achievement.

More importantly, irrigation coverage diverges significantly across states. In largely agrarian states like Punjab and Haryana, irrigation coverage is very close to 100%, while a relatively rich state like Maharashtra has only 20% irrigation coverage. Karnataka, another relatively rich state, has only 30% irrigation coverage.

This divergent irrigation coverage is one of the factors that explains the sharply divergent economics that farmers in different parts of the country face.