Are farmers calling it quits in Odisha?

Indicators indicate so. Fallow land have risen up. Gross irrigated area on a freefall. The net and gross sown areas have also dipped

Bhubaneswar: Amidst the high din over the KALIA scheme, some big ominous trends point to a shocker that farmers in the State are calling it quits.

Odisha is the only State in its neighbourhood to witness a consistent fall in its gross irrigated area.

The net sown area is on the down slope and so too is the gross cropped area in the State, revealed the Odisha Economic Survey 2018-19. The big worry the Survey observed was the rise in fallow land (a land where crops are grown earlier but now no crops are being sown) in tandem with decline in net and gross sown area.

These very facts tell a tale that farmers (marginal/small) in the State are abandoning farming altogether in a big way.

What comes as a shocker is the Gross Irrigated Area  (GIA) in the State has now worsened from the 1980s era, despite a consistent rise in the Irrigation Potential Created (IPC) as claimed by the State Government.

Sample the Himalayan slide. The gross irrigated area in 1980-81 was 17.11 lakh hectares (LH). But in the year 2014-15 the gross area under irrigation stood at mere 14.85 LH. The disconcerting trend observed in  Odisha was the GIA had been at a high of 32 LH in 2008-09. And it never looked up since then.

This major revelation has surfaced from the latest land usage data for the period of 1960-61 to 2014-15, which is available with the State Agriculture and Food Directorate. The data for the years 2015-18 are still being processed.

In contrast, Gross Irrigated Area (GIA) in West Bengal increased from 15.41LH in 1980-81 to a whopping 57 LH in 2014-15. Chhattisgarh  has also seen increase in GIA to 17.5 LH. Even, Bihar recorded a spike to over 53 LH from 36 LH during the period of  over three decades (1980-81 – 2014-15).

What is Gross Irrigated Area (GIA)? The total crop area that get irrigated once and/or more than once in an agriculture year. Simply put, it counts the number of times the cropped areas are irrigated in an agriculture year.

Interestingly, every year the State government claimed to have increased the irrigation potential in the State. Significantly, the Irrigation Potential Created (IPC) has crossed over 51LH now.

Even, the Irrigation Potential Utilised (IPU) claimed to have risen during the period.  Estimated IPU had touched over 45 LH by 2017-18, revealed the data.

But here is a catch. The gap between IPC and IPU reveals poor Command Area Management (CAM) in the State as its progress in laying network of field channels in the areas is moving at a snail’s pace, notwithstanding the Odisha government claim of according top priority to irrigation.

However, Water Resources Department claimed to have a gross irrigated area of over 40 LH now. The department explains that IPU means Gross Irrigated Area (GIA).

But a look at the land use data available with the State Agriculture Department has laid bare the shocking fact of consistent fall in GIA in the State since the year 2008-09.

Top sources disclosed that the GIA data of 2008-09 is window dressed and presented for consumption in public domain.

The bottom line: Unlike other States, Odisha exhibits a huge gap between IPC, IPU and actual irrigation availed by farmers owing to poor CAM and water users body.  And this factor coupled with falling income levels compel a marginal/small farmer to call it quits from farming.