Essay On Tubewell

Wells and Welfare in the Ganga Basin: Essay on Public Policy and Private Initiative: Tushaar Shah

Dr. N.C. Saxena
Former Secretary, Planning Commision

Policy Institutions and Management ProgramInternational Water Management Institute, Colombo

Eastern India is home to nearly 88m, or a third of India’s rural poor; but it has over 1/4th of India’s usable groundwater resource; and less than 1/5th of it is developed. Stimulating groundwater development is not only central to kick-starting the region’s Green Revolution, and creating livelihoods for its poor but also to addressing its syndrome of extensive water-logging and flood-proneness. This essay analyses how public policies designed to promote groundwater development over the past 50 years have failed in their promise, and how initiative by private agents can deliver the development the region needs so direly. The essay outlines a strategy with five components: first, Eastern India needs to scrap its existing minor irrigation programs run by government bureaucracies which guzzle up funds but deliver little minor irrigation; second, while the electricity supply environment is in total disarray, innovative ideas need to be piloted to test alternative approaches to efficient metering and collection of electricity dues from millions of small users; third, programs are needed to improve the unacceptably efficiency of electric as well as diesel pumps; fourth, there is need to promote smaller than 5 hp diesel pumps and improved manual irrigation technologies such as the treadle pumps; finally, above all else, East Indian states need to reform their pump subsidy schemes on the lines that Uttar Pradesh has done so as to ameliorate the pump capital scarcity which lies at the heart of the problem.

Wells and Welfare in the Ganga Basin:

Essay on Public Policy and Private Initiative

1. Backdrop.

Eastern India, especially the 15 eastern districts of Uttar Pradesh and the entire states of Bihar, West Bengal and parts of Orissa comprise a significant chunk of the Ganga-Meghna-Brahmaputra (GMB) basin that encompasses, in addition, all of Bangladesh and the terai areas of Nepal. The problem this paper deals with—and the strategy outlined to respond to it—in the East India context applies with equal force to the terai areas of Nepal as also much of Bangladesh. The GMB basin has fertile lands, but very high population pressure (at over 830 for Bangladesh and over 600 for Eastern India in 1991 compared to 285 for India as a whole) and, according to some estimates, the basin is home to 500 million of the world’s poorest people.[1]The region is marked by high dependence of its predominantly rural population on smallholder agriculture and wage labour. In 1991, in Bihar and Eastern UP, the proportion of the population dependent on agriculture was 79% compared to 66.7% for India as a whole. While Western Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and the two Punjabs (Indian and Pakistan) underwent massive agrarian transformation during the 1960’s, agrarian growth in the Eastern areas of India remained stagnant. District-wise analysis of agricultural growth in India by Bhalla and Singh shows that during 1963-93, the productivity/male agricultural worker crossed the Rs 10000 barrier in much of India; but most of Eastern India was not a part of it. The only region of Eastern India, which seems to be crossing the barrier is Eastern Uttar Pradesh (UP).

Eastern UP, the western-most part of Eastern India and the GBM basin, is an interesting study because it has just managed to break out of its agrarian stagnation. It is interesting also because, its transformation over the past 15 years is energized largely by the rapid—and much needed--development of small-scale groundwater irrigation; and offers critical lessons about how the rest of the basin can trigger off its belated Green Revolution. The present analysis of Eastern India—with particular focus on Eastern Uttar Pradesh--is quintessentially a study in political economy and practical policy. It is about how major public policy initiatives have actually impeded groundwater development rather than expediting it, and how the agrarian transformation in Eastern UP has come about largely through spontaneous techno-institutional responses of a multitude of private economic agents aimed at countering or coping with the powerful propensity of well-intentioned public policy initiatives to degenerate over time and become counter-productive. The overarching argument is that the seeds of an effective strategy for groundwater-led agricultural development for all of Eastern India—and the GBM basin—lie in the lessons offered by the experience of Eastern Uttar Pradesh. In sections 2,3,4 and 5, our focus then is on learning lessons from Eastern Uttar Pradesh. In section 6 and 7, we explore their implications for Eastern India as a whole.

2. Groundwater Resources of Eastern India

Eastern and North Eastern India has abundant surface as well as groundwater resources. Figure 1, based on estimates prepared by India’s Central Groundwater Board (which have recently been revised upward), suggests that of the total usable recharge of 325 cubic km for India as a whole, 25%, or over 80 km3 is available to Eastern and North Eastern India. These figures exclude 16 districts of eastern Uttar Pradesh. If these were included, eastern India’s groundwater resource would increase further to 92 km3 . Less than 1/4th of this resource is in use at present.

Uttar Pradesh (UP)’s own groundwater resources are abundant; its surface irrigation potential is estimated at some 13-14 m ha; but groundwater irrigation potential is estimated at over 20 m ha, taking the total irrigation potential to 33-34 m ha.[1], [2] All of UP falls in the piedmont zone of the Himalayas skirted by an artesian belt under free-flowing conditions extending from Jammu and Kashmir in the west to Tripura in the east. `The hydrological environment and groundwater regime conditions in the Indo-Ganga-Brahmaputra basin indicate the existence of enormous fresh groundwater reservoir at least down to 600 m or more below land surface. Bestowed with high incidence of rainfall, this groundwater reservoir gets replenished every year, the average annual recharge throughout the GBM basin ranging from 50-75 cm. Apart from the vertical recharge, substantial recharge occurs through horizontal absorption of water through the Bhabhar zone, a 10-20 km wide strip of highly pervious formation in the Himalayan foothills through which all Himalayan rivers must pass. The alluvial aquifers to the explored depth of 600 m have transmissivity values from 250 to 4000 m2 /d and hydraulic conductivity from 10 to 800 m/d. The well yields range up to 100 liters/second and more but yields of 40-100 lps are common...’ (GOI 1996:3). Overall, then, while peninsular India is crying out for effective control of groundwater over-exploitation, the need of Eastern UP, as indeed of the rest of the Eastern India, is to step up the utilisation of abundant groundwater resource for wealth creation and poverty alleviation. Of India’s 7063 blocks, 599 are dark. Figure 2 shows that only 1% of these are in Eastern and North Eastern India. Similarly, figure 3 sets out the distribution of white, gray and dark blocks in different sub-regions of Uttar Pradesh. For UP as a whole, less than 2.5% of the blocks are designated dark; and nearly 4/5th are denoted as white, offering much scope for tapping unutilised irrigation potential. Eastern UP offers even greater promise: 289 of its 345 blocks (84%) are white; 50 (14%) are gray and just 6 (2%) are designated dark. The problem of over-development is more acute in Western UP where groundwater irrigation has developed more rapidly than in other parts of UP over the past two decades.

If anything, this already abundant groundwater recharge of Eastern UP is only further augmented by newly developed canal irrigation. A good deal--in point of fact, nearly 1/4th-- of Uttar Pradesh’s groundwater recharge is contributed by canal irrigation according to the estimates by the State Groundwater Department; however, this proportion is probably even higher for, water losses through seepage are estimated to be 75% in many systems with unlined canal distributary network. In this flood-prone region, flood waters too contribute to recharge as do the shallow water tables to which recharge gets added.

All in all, the available irrigation potential- estimated using generous delta values, is 1.33 times the state’s 1991 gross cropped area of 25.5 mha, offering ample scope for raising the state’s overall average cropping intensity from the present 148% to 200%, or even more, since the bulk of the unutilised potential is in groundwater. Already, 6 out of the 13.7 mha potential of surface irrigation is utilised; but only 6 mha of the 20.3 mha (gross) of available groundwater potential is used, leaving room to bring over 14 m ha more under groundwater irrigation. The potential for further groundwater development is even greater further east-ward, as in North Bihar and North Bengal where the available recharge is as great or greater but its utlisation is far lower than in Eastern UP.

3. The Case for Stimulating Groundwater Development in Eastern India

There are compelling reasons for stimulating rapid and fuller development of groundwater resources in Eastern India: first, it can be important part of a strategy for correcting the regional imbalance in the development of the East versus the West; second, it can be a direct response to the region’s rural poverty; third, undeveloped, the region’s groundwater accentuates its flood-proneness and water-logging.

Eastern India constitutes the bulk of India’s `poverty square’. It is largely rural, predominantly agricultural, and has a high population density. As a microcosm of Eastern India, this east-west development dichotomy is apparent in Uttar Pradesh, too. While Western UP forged ahead in Green Revolution in the 1960s and ‘70s, eastern UP lagged behind in most respects (see table 1). The region needs a strong push in its agricultural sector to promote wider spread of the HYV technology, more crops under irrigated conditions, cropping pattern diversification in favour of high value crops, and a large summer crop which is by and large non-existent.

A major hypothesis—which has survived three decades and several failures to clear macro-level empirical tests—is that the rise of Green Revolution in Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh was fueled by the tubewell revolution that preceded it in these states; and that its refusal progress east-ward from Lucknow, which divides Western from Eastern India in the north is explained by the inadequacy of groundwater development in the East (Dhawan 1982). Several reasons explain this: [a] many studies—including macro-level—have shown unmistakable evidence that fertilizer use is directly and significantly related to tubewell irrigation(see, e.g., GOI 1985) ; [b] numerous micro-level studies based on sample surveys show that pump-irrigated farms perform much better compared to those irrigated by any other source in terms of cropping intensity, input use and yields[4]; (see, e.g., Dhawan 1985) and [c] by common observation, this difference is obviously explained by the superior quality –in terms of reliability, timeliness, adequacy -- of irrigation that tubewells offer compared to other sources (Chambers, Saxena and Shah 1987; Shah 1993). As far back as in 1985, a study group constituted by India’s Planning Commission to explore agricultural strategies in Eastern India noted that ‘one major reason for the low yield levels of eastern region states compared to the rest of India, particularly the chief rice growing states viz., Andhra Pradesh and Tamilnadu is the much lower level of irrigation in the former. About three fourths of the rice area in the eastern region is still cultivated under the uncertain monsoon conditions affected by floods as well as draughts’ (GOI 1985:1).

Finally, increased density of wells can increase welfare of the people in the eastern region through the powerful positive externality they produce by acting as an anti-dote to water logging and flood-proneness. Much of eastern India, particularly Eastern Uttar Pradesh, North Bihar, Kuchbehar and Jalpaiguri districts in North Bengal and parts of Orissa are flood-prone. According to the estimates made by the UP groundwater department, 3.4 m ham of the total of 8.42 m ha m of groundwater recharge that Uttar Pradesh gets annually occurs from canal irrigation (1.24 m ham), surface irrigation reflows (0.69 m ham), and recharge from tanks, and lateral recharge from flood prone areas and from shallow water table areas (GoUP1996b). This surfeit of groundwater recharge increases as one moves from west to east. In Eastern UP, vast areas remain inundated by flood waters for better part of the year, and acute water logging characterizes the Saryu-par areas in the middle of the Ganga basin--lined in the south by the Ghaghra river and spread over Gorakhpur, Maharajganj, Deoria, Siddharthnagar, Basti, Gonda and Bahraich districts. The entire area--which encompasses nearly a tenth of UP--has acute problem of sub-soil water drainage and consequently, uniformly high groundwater table at 3-5 meters.Ghaghra, Rapti, and Gandak are notorious flood creating rivers but even smaller rivers like Rohini, Burhi Rapti, Ami, Kuwano, Gurra, Tons, Kunhra, Ghonghi, Burha Gandak, Chhota Gandak, Taraina too contribute their mite in flooding the region (Vajih and Kumar nd). Rapti alone inundates 3,50,000 ha every year in Bahraich, Gonda, Basti, Siddharthnagar and Deoria (Yadav and Lal 1994;nd). Estimates made from remote sensing data of the area under flood inundation and surface water logging in Eastern UP (within latitudes 26001 and 30001 N and longitudes 780151 and 840301 E ) during September 2-6, 1988 showed that 1.089 m ha-- including crop lands-- was ‘completely/partially inundated’ and 0.678 m ha had surface water logging ( Kolavalli et al 1989: 81). Over 15% of Eastern UP’s crop land is hit by floods every year; and over half of the region has groundwater tables less than 5 m pre-monsoon (ibid.). According to a study undertaken by the Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group, some 0.398 m ham of water is added to the groundwater table every year; of this, only 0.064 m ham (around 16%) is abstracted through various irrigation structures. Water logging and flood-proneness are aggravated by large-scale erection of embankments in Gorakhpur and Deoria districts, which further impede drainage and accentuate water logging.[5]

Flood proneness and water logging hit the lives and livelihoods of people in myriad ways. Between 1951-1981, the area cultivated in kharif in the Gandak River Project command fell from 214 thousand ha to 68 thousand ha due to annual flooding and surface water logging (Yadav and Lal nd). High flood-proneness induces risk aversion; as a result, in these areas, farmers clung to traditional mixed-crop farming technologies, which offered some insurance cover against flood risks and minimised cash costs of cultivation. The tradition of animal husbandry too has been undergoing change due to waterlogging; as grazing lands remain submerged in water for long periods, large bovines have declined in population. Marginal farmers and landless have increasingly taken to piggery.[6] Flooding and water logging have also brought in their wake a variety of health-related disbenefits; incidence of diseases like malaria, Japanese encephalitis, filaria is rampant. Moreover, due to flooding and water logging, soluble iodine is washed away or removed by seepage, causing severe iodine deficiency (Vajih and Kumar, opp.cit.). Over a third of the usar (sodic) lands of Uttar Pradesh are largely an outcome of the rapidly rising water tables causing water logging conditions in extensive areas of the state. In saline lands, vegetation exists only in kharif and pH is lower than 8.5; in saline-alkaline lands, the most common variety of usar lands, the presence of a kankar pan causes water stagnation.

Much has been made of the need to ‘augment’ lean season flows in Ganga; indeed, insufficiency of Ganga waters to meet the summer needs has been a major bone of contention in India-Bangladesh discussions on the sharing of Ganga waters. But as many observers have suggested, such augmentation is outside the realm of feasibility; and that the best approach to achieving seasonal water balance is better and more integrated management of the basin as a whole (see, e.g., Ramaswamy 1999:2296). The centerpiece of such a strategy has to be increased sub-surface retention and storage of peak-flows for use in lean season; and the most practical and cost-effective way of doing this is through rapid groundwater development.

A major reason for Eastern India’s water logging and flood proneness is insufficient conjunctive use of ground and surface water. Just as excessive groundwater draft results in drying of springs and reduced base-flow in rivers, too little of it adds to the swelling of rivers and streams at peak-flows in the form of ‘rejected recharge’. Ideally, groundwater development should match canal irrigation especially in ill-drained soils as encountered in much of Eastern India; but as figure 4 shows, in Eastern UP districts, ground and surface water development have lacked this balance. As far back as in 1948, a commission appointed by the Government of Uttar Pradesh asserted that the flood problems of eastern UP were `due to reduction in the absorptive capacity of the soil..’ (Yadav and Lal 1994). This `reduction’ has been magnified with the development of intensive canal irrigation during the last five decades since then. Particularly after 1950, the laying out of new canal networks, most of them unlined, resulted in rapid and persistent rise in groundwater tables resulting in large areas water-logged for 5-6 months after the last of the monsoon rains. This problem—which has bewitched the entire Eastern India, got enormously aggravated by the construction of countless embankments, first by the erstwhile Zamindaars, and more recently under government-programs which were intended to protect communities and farm lands from flash-floods but have been producing exactly the opposite impact (Mishra 1999a and 1999b). As in Eastern UP, Bihar’s flood-prone area too tripled from 2.5 m ha in 1954 to6.8 m ha in 1994—which means that 70% of the population in North Bihar, some 30 m people, are at risk from floods every year (ibid.).

Many strategies have been recommended and tried out to deal with the intensification of the flood-proneness and water logging of Eastern UP as a consequence of canal irrigation growth. But there has been growing consensus that the most important long term strategy to flight flood-proneness is of rapid increase in groundwater irrigation which will not only lower water tables but also help reduce the intensity of floods and the average period of flooding by enhancing the underground storage for flood waters, canal seepage as well as irrigation reflows. Reviewing the suggestions made by several experts, the Delhi-based Center for Science and Environment wrote:

“..that active development of groundwater reservoirs by extensive irrigation pumping during the dry season can provide substantial capacity to store flood and drainage waters during the wet season. Preliminary calculations made in USA indicate that full development of conjunctive use in the Ganga basin could lead to as much as 50% reduction in the monsoon flow of the river. Thus groundwater utilisation can not only contribute to full realisation of the agricultural potential of the region but would also be effective in reducing and preventing water-logging conditions which have come to be an imminent threat in considerable tracts of North Bihar [as indeed much of Eastern India]. The measure could considerably alleviate the flood problem of the region through provision of underground storage of monsoon flows. [However], the desired development of groundwater in this area has been inhibited by the preponderance of marginal farmers who can not afford the investment required in installation of tubewells... (CSE 1991: 121-122).

Public Policy: State and Community Tubewell Program

Preponderance of marginal farmers and their lack of capacity to make tubewell investments has then been the central challenge in stimulating poverty-focused groundwater development in Eastern India. And all government and NGO initiatives since the 1950 have been designed to respond to this challenge. Early thinking aimed at organizing the poor for collectively managing an irrigation asset or through an extensive and vigorous public tubewell program. Eastern UP offers examples of both these institutional options, although there is only one significant case of tubewells owned and managed by farmer groups. This experiment was promoted in Deoria district of UP and Vaishali district in Bihar by a local NGO under the Indo-Norwegian Agricultural Development Project. Niranjan Pant who followed the rise and fall of the farmer-managed tubewells over a period spanning more than a decade, wrote in early 1980’s, `the wells owned and operated by groups of small and marginal farmers were found to be doing a very satisfying job.. the management of each tubewell was the responsibility of the group of farmers and the group leader..[and they] were quite successful from the point of view of accessibility of groundwater among the resource poor farmers’ (Pant 1984). But when he revisited the groups in Deoria in 1988, `to our dismay, we found many of the groups which existed in 1983 had disintegrated...The main reason.. [was that] the commands of the group tubewells were subsumed by the World Bank tubewells.. the World Bank tubewell water was available at a much cheaper rate.. (Pant 1989: 97-98).

The Public Tubewell program, which cannibalized the Deoria tubewell groups itself, fell, a few years later, to the predatory onslaught of booming local pump irrigation markets besides its own short-comings. By 1990, there were nearly 30,000 large public tubewells strewn all over UP’s countryside, constructed with financial support of the Dutch and the World Bank. Its failings however soon began to come to the fore. In mid-1980s, the Public Tubewell Program was losing around Rs 65-70 crores/ year (Kolavalli and Shah 1989); in the 1990’s, the annual losses exceeded Rs 100 crore. A new program launched in late-1970 with World Bank support promoted several new design features such as: dedicated power supply to a cluster of 25 PTW’s linked to an independent 11 kV line, buried pipelines, automatic operation of wells, tamper-proof outlets, and the system of osrabandhi for water allocation overseen by an elected farmer committee and executed by a part-time operator chosen from the area itself.

This, too, however, failed to arrest the downward spin in the performance of public tubewells. They did better than conventional PTWs while they were new. However, as they advanced in age, the performance of the World Bank tubewells declined too. For instance, the average number of hours and area irrigated per tubewell fell from 2304 hours and 77 ha in 1976-77 to 780 hours and 35 ha in 1983-84 (Kolavalli and Shah 1989); the downward spin continued thereafter. A study of the `new design’ PTWs (i.e., Public Tube Wells) in Faizabad, Basti and Deoria districts by Pant concluded that: only a third of the farmers in the command could depend upon the PTWs exclusively for their irrigation needs; 60% of the PTWs had non-functioning meters; 30% of PTWs did not have farmer committees and in the rest, the committees had seldom met; the performance of tubewells themselves was quite poor compared to what was planned; the highest realizable revenue by PTWs was less than needed to meet the operator salary (Pant 1989).

Different researchers have found marginally different clusters of reasons explaining the failure of the UP Public Tubewell Program. Kolavalli and Shah (1989) blamed insufficient and erratic power supply, inadequate conveyance systems, operator-absenteeism, failure of osrabandi system, and poor maintenance as the main reasons. In addition to all these, Pant (1989) also found organization-design failure to be an important factor: ` [operators] thought they were accountable to irrigation officials rather than to command farmers or to the Tubewell Management Committee. Consequently, the distribution was done more or less in an arbitrary manner. The core component of water distribution system such as osrabandi, opening of one outlet at a time in a loop, and beneficiary involvement were conspicuous by their absence.’ (Pant 1989:100). Palmer-Jones (1995) concluded that, quite apart from the complex institutional issues, ‘DTWs were and are an inappropriate technology for the social and economic conditions encountered in developing countries of South Asia..”(p:iv)

An important insight of Pant’s study was that the PTWs stimulated the emergence of an active pump irrigation market in their commands, which made the PTWs themselves increasingly redundant! Contrary to a priori supposition, the number of private tubewells increased rapidly once an area got covered by a World Bank PTW command, in Faizabad, by 54% and in, Deoria by 33%. Over 2/3rd of the PTW command farmers used other private tubewell irrigation; and of these, only 1/4th owned tubewells, the rest purchased irrigation from private tubewell owners (Pant 1989:90). When the first generation public tubewells came up in UP in the 1940s and 50’s, private tubewell development was all but non-existent. In fact, even in the 1970’s, when the community tubewell experiment was carried out, eastern UP had very little private tubewell development. During the 1980’s, however, the growth of private tubewells was truly rapid; and in their wake came the practice of water selling. Indeed, both the community tubewells as well as public tubewells faced growing farmer apathy and disinterest because private water sellers rapidly made deep inroads into their command, established themselves as market leaders and reduced public tubewells to the status of suppliers of supplemental irrigation.

Rise of Pump Irrigation Markets:1960-90

Even without its failings, the Public Tubewell Program would not have played more than a marginal role in UP’s Green Revolution. At full strength of 30000 tubewells all working to their full capacity, the Program would have developed no more than 1 percent of UP’s groundwater potential. And a program much bigger than this would prove unmanageable in the best of conditions. Growing private investment in tubewell irrigation was thus a Godsend for UP agriculture. One reason why interest in public and community tubewell persisted long after it was proved unsustainable was the question of equity in access to groundwater appropriation and use by the resource poor farmers who could not mobilize the chunky capital investment needed in tubewell installation. Studies in the 1980’s and 90’s ( Kolavalli, Kalro and Asopa 1989; Kolavalli, Naik and Kalro 1992; Lall and Pachauri 1994; Pant 1992; Pant 1989; Shankar nd; Shankar 1992; Shah 1993, Shah, Indu and Paleja 1997), however, showed that a fitting response to this important equity issue came not from public tubewell programs but from private water markets.

As far back as in the 1960’s, purchased pump irrigation from private tubewell owners was an important way for the resource poor farmers to gain access to groundwater irrigation. However, the power and reach of this new institution was beginning to get recognised only during the late 1980s as the South Asian water market debate opened up. Most of these researchers found that compared to the lackadaisical public tubewell operators, private pump owners were surprisingly eager irrigation service providers, taking on their competition by lowering price and improving quality of service. Much emerging evidence seems to suggest that although pump irrigation markets appeared to have wrecked public and collective irrigation institutions that focused upon securing irrigation access for the poor, ironically, it was the poor water buyers who disowned public and community tubewells to turn to private water markets because of their superior and more reliable—even if apparently costlier—irrigation service.

In late 1980’s, Niranjan Pant reanalysed his 1981 survey of 280 farmers in Deoria, Barabanki and Meerut districts and concluded that whereas only 27.7% of the farmers owned bore wells, all the remaining 63.3% purchased irrigation from pump owners. He found water trade deeper and broader in Barabanki or Meerut further west than in Deoria in Eastern parts probably because the latter had lower pump density: `In Deoria, an average TUBEWELL served 7.1 clients; in Barabanki and Meerut, it served 2.3 and 2.6 clients respectively. On an average, 27.1 acres (of owner’s and his clients’ lands) were irrigated by a private tubewells in Deoria compared to 16.1 acres in Meerut and 6.9 acres in Barabanki.’ (Pant 1989: p:89).

In 1990, Pant explored water markets in course of extensive fieldwork through out the eastern region and wrote: `A common feature found in all Eastern region states was sale and purchase of water on an hourly basis. The rates varied ..and ranged between Rs 8-25/hour from a 5 hp pump/ tubewell..’[Pant 1989:89]. Still later, exploring the comparative reach amongst the poor of water markets, World Bank tubewells and canal irrigation in Faizabad and Bahraich, amongst India’s poorest districts,[7] Pant concluded that ` The operation of the private groundwater markets appears to be very beneficial for [farmers in

For the poorest farmers in Eastern India, then, the benefits of groundwater irrigation have come through three routes: in large part, through purchased pump irrigation and, in a small way, through improved manual irrigation technologies as well as through the Free Boring Scheme. In manual technologies, the most notable has been the introduction of treadle pump, which is particularly suited to farmers with less than a ha of land because it requires an investment of less than Rs 700, and can deliver up to 1 l/s without any cash cost of operation. The treadle pump has been gaining in popularity; however, it faces tough competition from private pump irrigation sellers. In point of fact, a 1996 survey (Shah, Indu and Paleja 1998) to assess the impact of treadle pumps in Eastern UP showed that treadle pump owners invariably used purchased pump irrigation as well. More importantly, it was impossible for us to find farmers pure rain-fed farmers in Eastern UP; almost every farmer who does not have own means of irrigation buys irrigation service from private tubewell owners. Figure:6 , based on a survey of 134 tubewell owners, 151 farmers wholly dependent on purchased pump irrigation and 95 treadle pump owners shows that, thanks to the pump irrigation markets, not having one’s own tubewell is not all that much of a disadvantage because over 95% of the operated area in case of all the three categories is irrigated. Another interesting finding of this survey was the surprisingly small contribution of surface water to smallholder irrigation. Considering that the sample of 280 was chosen from 25 villages in the districts of Deoria and Maharajganj which have a large canal network, we had expected that canal irrigation would be an important presence for the farmers surveyed. Yet, it emerged that, after own tubewells, purchased pump irrigation was the largest provider of small-holder irrigation; of the 1000 odd acres operated by the 380 sample farmers, 35% was served by the water market (figure 8).

The downside of water markets is the high cost of irrigation to the buyers, and the pressure on them to economize on groundwater use especially in a region like Eastern India, where as we reviewed earlier, groundwater withdrawal creates a powerful positive externality. Many studies indicate that where as water markets have a wide reach, water buyers invariably use less water compared to tubewell owners themselves. Figure: 7, for example, shows the relative frugality of water use by water buyers in the five districts of Eastern UP from which Shah, Indu and Paleja (1998) drew their sample of 380 farmers. Other studies amply confirm this finding. Based on his survey of 50 farmers in Faizabad and 70 in Bahraich, Pant (1992) similarly showed that the average water use/ha by tubewell owners was 98 hours in Faizabad and 36 hours in Bahraich; water use by buyers was lower at 51.5 and 25.4 hours respectively. Based on a sample survey of 400 farmers from Gorakhpur, Sultanpur, Mirzapur and Azamgadh districts of Eastern UP, Kolavalli, Naik and Kalro (1992) found that where as 90% of tubewell owners in Azamgadh and Sultanpur gave more than 2 irrigations to paddy, more than 75% of water buyers gave less than two irrigations. Then authors noted: ‘ a much smaller percentage of farmers without wells irrigated their paddy crop.. It would suggest that paddy irrigation appears to be less remunerative particularly if irrigation is to be purchased..’ (p 46).

In 1996, water buyers in Eastern Uttar Pradesh paid Rs 26-30/hour of pumping from 5 hp diesel pumps with a yield of 18-20 m3 /hour. Irrigating a hectare of paddy would need 70 hours and a ha of wheat in rabi would need 100 hours costing Rs 1960/ha and Rs 2800/ha respectively. Canal irrigation rates for paddy and wheat in UP for years have been Rs 180/ha and Rs 70/ha. Thus irrigating wheat and paddy with purchased tubewell water is nearly 20 times costlier than canal irrigation. It is not surprising that cash-starved water buyers economize in the use of purchased pump irrigation. An important aspect is also the steeply rising cost of pump irrigation in response to rise in diesel prices. An early hypothesis in the South Asian debate on water markets was about the relationship between energy cost and pump irrigation prices, which emanated from a water seller’s profit function and yielded the relation

w = e/(e-1).c

where w is the price of pump irrigation (Rs/hour), c is the incremental cost (Rs/hour) of pumping facing the seller—which, in the case of diesel pumps, is mainly the cost of diesel used per hour; and e is the price elasticity of demand for pump irrigation (see, Shah 1993 for the derivation). Since a rational seller will sell only when e>1, e/(e-1) provides the multiple by which water price will exceed the incremental pumping cost. If e=1.4, water price will be 3.5 times the price of diesel/litre since a 5 hp diesel engine consumes on average1 liter/hour. And if the price of diesel increases by 10%, the price of water will rise by 35% too and not just enough to cover the increased diesel cost. In 1996, with the help of grassroots NGO’s, we constructed time series of diesel pump irrigation prices in a selection of locations in Eastern UP and North Bihar which suggested that water prices increased every time diesel prices increased and the former increased substantially more than would be enough to cover the diesel price increase. Figure:9 which presents these data also projects the likely impact of the recent 35% hike in diesel prices on pump irrigation prices in Eastern India; and depending upon the degree of competition in local water markets in different locations, we expect the 5 hp diesel pump irrigation prices to rise to between Rs 40-65/hour from the present Rs 25-40/hour.

Overall, then, even with broad and deep pump irrigation markets that ensure small farmers’ access to groundwater, questions still remain about the cost of such access. Two aspects are pertinent: first, water buyers are under greater pressure to economize on water use than pump owners, and this differential pressure increases with every increase in diesel price; and second, there is a transfer of wealth from water buyers to pump owners with progressive increase in diesel prices. Shah et al (1997) estimated that every hour of pump irrigation sold in Eastern India contained a ‘monopoly rent’ of Rs 10 in 1996; assuming that the 22 lakh diesel pump owners in Eastern India sell 100 hours each per year, we can surmise that water buyers subsidize pump owners to the tune of Rs 2200 m every year. With the 1999 hike in diesel prices by 35%, we believe this ‘rent’ has more than doubled.

Progressive Rural De-electrification of Eastern UP

UP government’s policy on rural electrification did to catalyze pump irrigation markets what its public tubewell program did to initiate private tubewell revolution. During the 1960’s, governments as well as donors such as the World Bank placed great emphasis on rural electrification as a means to overall development, but particularly, of agricultural development through tubewell irrigation. As a result of this intensive effort, the population of electric tubewells rose rapidly, particularly in Western UP, but to a lesser extent, even in Eastern UP. The capital investment in electric pumps was higher because a portion of the cost of laying the cable from the transformer to the well site was charged to the tubewell owners. Diesel pumps were cheaper to buy but were less preferred because they were substantially costlier to operate. The high investment costs of electric tubewells encouraged their owners to operate their pumps at a high level of capacity utilisation by supplying irrigation service to other farmers. Thus arose the new institution of pump irrigation markets; and private electric tubewells began playing pretty much the same role as public tubewells were envisaged to do--viz., providing tubewell irrigation service to small and marginal farmers--but in a more service-oriented and economically profitable manner.

However, by the early 1970’s, the logistics of metering electricity supply and collecting the tariff was beginning to prove too much for the UP electricity board which had hired an army of meter readers to take readings on the rapidly growing numbers of household and tubewell connections in UP’s vast country-side. [9]The meter readers who were initially appointed on contract during the early 1960’s soon unionized and eventually forced a populist chief minister to regularize them as government employees with manifold increase in wages and benefits. Soon thereafter, the quality of metering declined, and so did the collection of electricity charges. Meter readers were easy to bribe or to brow-beat into under-reporting the consumption or tampering with the meter; moreover, to beat metering, farmers began to pilfer power by hooking directly to power lines since there was little to deter them. These logistical problems multiplied manifold when it came to dealing with metering electricity consumption for millions of tiny household users (with just 1-2 40 W bulbs). All in all, a major rethink on the logistics of metering and revenue collection in rural electricity supply had become inevitable.

Around then, a 1973 study by the Rural Electrification Corporation encompassing several states found the cost of metering electricity consumption by farmers and rural households was over 40% of the cost of power itself! UP was not the only state that was facing these problems; all states did. So in 1975, when the UP SEB decided to get rid of metering of rural household and farm users, and switch to a flat monthly tariff unlinked to actual consumption, many other state governments were watching the implications with great interest; and in the following five years, most other Indian SEB’s followed suit and changed from metered to flat electricity tariff, especially for agricultural users.

The change to flat tariff gave a powerful stimulus to pump irrigation markets; it raised the fixed cost but reduced the incremental pumping cost to zero, almost. This meant that the electric tubewell owner was under powerful compulsion to sell more; and competition amongst electric pump owners forced the pump irrigation price down, improved the quality of service, and in general, created a buyers’ market for pump irrigation. Comparative surveys across states during the 1980’s showed that a 5 hp electric pump owner in Meerut (Western UP) and Basti (Eastern UP) sold pump irrigation at Rs 5-6/hour where as similar electric pump owner in Gujarat charged Rs 20/hour because he was paying for metered power use. Diesel pump owners in UP, who charged Rs 18-20/hour for 5 hp pump in UP as elsewhere began losing out in their competition with electric pump owners; there is some evidence to suggest that diesel pump owners in many areas were obliged to slash their pump irrigation prices in order to survive in the competition. All in all, the resource poor farmers—who were mostly pump irrigation buyers—had the best possible deal they could hope for in the early years after the change to flat electricity tariff[10].

However, this state of happiness proved short-lived. While changing from metered to flat tariff, the UP State Electricity Board (SEB) was governed by the economics of power supply as well as the politics of power. Compared to many other states especially in South India, where political leaders used the change to flat tariff as an opportunity to do away with power tariff itself, either fully or largely, in UP the flat tariff was fixed at a reasonable Rs 18 (US$1.3) /hp/month at which the SEB would have been close to the break-even point for pre-change level of average electricity consumption, particularly since the flat tariff eliminated substantial cost of metering and pilferage associated with metered tariff. However, what the SEB had not planned for was the rapid increase in the electricity consumption per tube-well after the change to flat tariff. The very process that transformed pump irrigation markets into a boon for resource poor farmers—and heralded a new promise for Eastern UP’s belated Green Revolution-- was also playing havoc with the UP SEB’s balance sheet. Ideally, the SEB should have put up the flat tariff as the average power consumption per tubewell rose; and it did manage to raise it to Rs 25/hp/month in early-1980s to Rs 30 in late-1980’s and further to Rs 50/hp/month in early 1990’s[11]. This was creditable compared to many southern Indian states which used flat tariff to supply free electricity. However, the increases in the flat tariff implemented over the 25-year period were far less than needed to cover the full cost of agricultural power supply. The medium and large farmers especially in Western UP, who owned most of the electric tubewells, were getting organised into a noisy, at times militant formation under Mahendra Singh Tikait, a Jat farmer leader from Western UP; and they put paid to every move by the SEB to put up the flat tariff.

Like every monopolist, the UP SEB had control over either the price or the quantity supplied of the product it supplies to a market segment but not both. In the post-flat tariff years, the UP SEB increasingly faced erosion of its power to set the electricity price. Therefore, intuitively, it reached out for the only other lever at its command: supply. It brought in progressive restriction in the supply of power to agricultural users in an orderly and transparent manner. However, the farmer lobby quickly saw through the SEB’s game and launched a fierce agitation leading the Chief Minister and other political leaders to publicly and repeatedly announce their resolve to maintain power supply to agriculture to a minimum 18 hours/day. Something had to give; since the government would not displease the militant Jat interests in Western UP, the axe had to fall elsewhere. Thus began an invidious process of progressive rural de-electrification of Eastern UP.

While the political leadership went on promising guaranteed power supply to agriculture, the SEB, powerless to perform positive acts of commission, took to unobtrusive acts of omission, and began systematically neglecting the maintenance of power supply infrastructure in some of the most backward areas of the state where the farmers were far less organised and militant compared to Jats in western UP. This process of omission was slow; cessation of investment in maintenance and repair—and the resulting erosion of the element-- take time to take effect; but slowly and surely it did and began to translate in declining quality and reliability of power supply. At the close of the 1980’s, only 1-1.5% of transformers in Eastern UP used to be ‘down’; in early 1990’s 20% were found to be non-functional at any point in time (Tyagi 1995). Stolen cables stopped being replaced; broken-down transformers often took 6 –12 months to fix; although technically, the SEB supplied close to guaranteed hours from power stations, electricity available at the well-head went on a downward spin in terms of quantity; 24 hours/day were supplied during peak-monsoon and 3 hours/day in peak-irrigation seasons to make up the required annual average. Flat tariff has many advantages for tubewell owners but only under an opportune electricity supply environment in which even if rationed, reliable power is supplied at peak irrigation periods. What happened in Eastern UP---and indeed all of Eastern India—during the 1980’s was that agricultural power supply got concentrated during monsoons and, that too, during nights. In such inopportune power supply environment[12], electric tubewell owners began to find it increasingly difficult to operate their tubewells at a level of capacity utilisation high enough to cover their fixed costs that included a flat tariff of Rs 40/hp/month.

Although published state government data show some growth in agricultural power connections in eastern UP during the 1980’s and the 90’s, all indications from the field show that these have actually declined rapidly. During late 1970’s, one could find at least a dozen electric tubewells in a village in Deoria district; in course of our 1995 fieldwork, we had to visit a dozen villages before we could interview the owner of an electric tubewell. As early as in 1989, Indra Deo Sharma (Sharma 1989) had presented a paper lamenting the `diesalisation of Eastern UP’s groundwater sector’ at a workshop in Faizabad. In course of his 1990 survey in Faizabad and Bahraich, Niranjan Pant’s stratified random sample of 50 tubewell owners in Faizabad (just east of Lucknow in Central UP) captured 22 electric tubewells; but his sample of 70 tubewell owners in Bahraich (deep in Eastern UP) captured only 2 electric tubewells[13] In trying to explain why Eastern UP does not use its groundwater potential fully, Kolavalli et al randomly selected 193 tubewell owners for their survey in Gorakhpur, Sultanpur, Azamgarh and Mirzapur districts of Eastern UP and found only 10 electric tubewells to survey (Kolavalli et al 1992). For our own survey of 380 farmers in five districts of Gorakhpur Mandal, we tried to include an equal number of electric, diesel and treadle pump owners, water buyers and non-irrigators; however, we found no ‘pure’ non-irrigators and only 4 electric tubewell owners in 25 villages (Shah et al 1998). This trend is not evident in SEB’s published figures on electrified tubewells because these do not deduct the disconnected tubewells, which are treated as provisional disconnections. But in private discussions SEB managers readily conceded that 80% of the pump electrification targets got met in Western and Central UP which have most of UP’s dark and gray areas. In Eastern UP, there are no dark blocks; in fact all the blocks are white; but there is little or no power there; and the pace of electrification of new tubewells has been very slow. In a field trip across UP in 1996, we (Tushaar Shah, Marcus Moench and Christina Wood) found certain divisions to be ‘electrically privileged’; this was true particularly in Meerut, Agra and Muradabad in Western UP, and Varanasi in Eastern UP--which have significantly higher electric tubewell density compared to the rest of the UP. Even within these districts, electric tubewell density is probably much higher within small pockets, especially near towns and along roadsides, as we found in Faizabad. Away from the towns and main roads, electric tubewell density rapidly declines even in these electrically privileged districts.

Officially, the UP SEB has spun an unbelievable story that militates against commonsense as well as the ground reality of Eastern UP. According UP SEB figures, since 1972-73, the total number of private electric tubewells in UP increased from 1.83 lakh to over 7 lakh in 1993-94 at a compound rate of around 10%/year. The power supplied to these has increased at an even faster pace than their number, from 794 m units/year in 1972-73 to 9500 m units in 1994-95, at a compound growth rate of 11.9% per year. As a result, the average power consumption per electric tubewell has gone up over three times, from 4072 units/year in 1972-73 to 11800 units in 1994-95. The official UPSEB estimate of its losses from agricultural power supply shot up from Rs 163 cr in 1993-94 to just under Rs 1300 crore in 1994-95. For every hour of pumping of an electric tubewell, the UP SEB has been losing over Rs 6.[14] To break even on agricultural operations, the flat tariff would have to be raised from the present Rs 50/hp/month to Rs 209/ hp/month. The story has been uncritically accepted by many. A report by Tata Energy Research Institute noted: “Because of the low agricultural tariff and high magnitude of consumption of this sector, the SEB loses heavily in terms of revenue from agricultural power sales....” (TERI 1996:73). Several studies of the World Bank have concluded similarly.

But several inconvenient facts remain unexplained. First, why should farmers reject electric tubewells as resoundingly as they have done in eastern UP had power supply been so heavily subsidized in real terms? Second, the estimates made by field researchers on the hours of pumpage by electric tubewells imply a level of actual power consumption, which is a small fraction of the average claimed by the UP SEB. Third, accepting the UP SEB’s estimates raise important questions about what are 2.2 million diesel pumps doing in UP’s countryside and why are diesel tubewells growing at such a phenomenal rate[15]. Finally, much evidence suggests that, if any, rural power subsidies are concentrated in electrically privileged areas of Western Uttar Pradesh[16]; in Eastern UP, far from being subsidized, electric power is, in effect, heavily taxed.

Consider the following. At the UP SEB’s figure of 11800 kWh as the average power consumption per electric tubewell/year, assuming the connected load to be 6 hp on average, the average private electric tubewell should be operating over 2500 hours/year. But except in small pockets of electrically privileged districts of Western UP where studies show average of 1300-1500 hours of annual operation, nowhere do electric tubewells in Eastern UP—nay, Eastern India--operate for more than 600-700 hours/year. The Faizabad sample of 18 electric tubewell owners in Pant’s 1992 study reported an average operating hours of 665/year. In Kripa Shankar’s study (1992:58) of a sample of 140 households in Allahabad, electric tubewell owners reported the average hours of operation to be 663/year (Kripa Shankar 1992:58). A survey of 478 tubewells owners from Muradabad, Barabanki and Agra districts by the Operations Research Group in 1990 indicated that 70% of sampled electric tubewells operated for less than 500 hours/year; only 8% operated for more than 1000 hours. Far from 11,800 kWh, on an average, electric tubewells consumed 1870 kWh/year in their Muradabad sample, 924 kWh/year in Barabanki sample and 1990 kWh in their Agra sample (ORG 1991:23). The average cost of power to these was thus Rs 2.89/kWh, far more than any other user category of the UP SEB. A 1981 survey by NABARD (1988) in Allahabad district in Eastern UP showed that electric tubewell owners operated their tubewells for an average of 636 hours and the average electricity cost/hour to them was Rs 0.77/kWh when the UP SEB claimed it realised only Rs 0.18/kWh from agricultural consumers (UP SEB 1996: p 97). But a similar evaluation in electrically privileged Muzaffarnagar district in Meerut division, a sample of 42 electric tubewells operated for 1034 hours Rs 0.36/unit (NABARD 1987). Tyagi (1995) found the average power consumption by a sample of 229 electric tubewells from all over UP at 2566 kWh/year, less than 1/4th of the SEB estimate of 11800. At a flat tariff of Rs 50/hp/month, the average electricity cost thus is Rs 1.43/kWh, over 3.5 times Rs 0.43/kWH claimed by SEB. Tyagi showed that for the bottom 10% tubewells that operated for an average of 280 hours/year, the effective power cost rises to Rs 2.87/unit or Rs 13.08/hour. In electrically privileged Kanpur district of Western UP, where because of more opportune power supply environment, an average tubewell operated for 774 hours, the cost declined sharply to 1.04/kWh or Rs 4.74/hour of operation. With this economics, it is not surprising why farmers in Eastern UP switch to diesel engines. A 6.5 hp diesel pump would cost between Rs 9.50-10/hour in fuel; thus an electric tubewell operating over 750 hours/year is half as cheap to run as a diesel pump; but one operating at less than 300 hours costs much higher to run. In early 1990’s this made electricity sold to Eastern UP’s agriculture amongst the most expensive in all consumer categories: domestic users paid Rs 0.77/k WH; commercial users paid Rs 1.16/kWh; industries paid Rs 1.36; and Eastern UP’s agriculture paid an effective price of Rs 1.43.

Dieselisation of Eastern UP’s Groundwater Irrigation

Until this stage, there are strong parallels between the pattern of evolution of groundwater development in Eastern UP and the rest of Eastern India, in particular, North Bihar, North Bengal and coastal Orissa—which combine large volumes of undeveloped groundwater potential with massive concentration of rural poverty. If UP tried a public tubewell program, so did West Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. If UP’s public tubewells failed in their promise to the poor, they failed even more resoundingly in Bihar and Orissa.[17] The rest of the East Indian states mounted their rural electrification programs much the same way as UP did, but with a lag of 3-5 years. Elsewhere in Eastern India too, private electrified tubewells grew in numbers but except in SouthWest Bengal, through not as rapidly as in UP, especially Western UP. UP changed from metered to flat tariff in 1975; Bihar and Orissa followed suit. Finally, as in Eastern UP, few years after the introduction of flat tariff, the power supply environment throughout Eastern region began deteriorating. Within each state, there were ‘electrically privileged’ areas where rural electricity infrastructure remained relatively better maintained and power supply environment, in reasonable good condition. In West Bengal, southern districts had better power supply environment and developed dynamic agrarian economies; North Bengal, with poor power supply environment failed to develop its extraordinary groundwater potential and stagnated. Bihar remained electrically under-privileged throughout; still, the central region became less electrically under-privileged than north Bihar with its massive underdeveloped groundwater resource. In Orissa, Puri and Cuttak districts became electrically privileged; western Orissa ended up with poor power supply environment. In most respects, then, Eastern UP became a forerunner to the rest of Eastern India.

But the parallels end here. With the decline in the power supply environment, the development of groundwater irrigation in much of Eastern India has all but stagnated. But in Eastern UP, tubewell irrigation continued to be a boom sector. Eastern UP dealt with the crisis of deteriorating power supply by dieselizing its groundwater irrigation. Here, the population of private diesel pumps increased at a faster rate than the electric pumps declined. Some evidence of this trend is available in data collected from district level; however, these too only add new electric tubewells connected every year without deducting those which are disconnected. Even so, as figure: 10 shows, the pace of dieselisation of Eastern UP’s groundwater irrigation sector is unmistakable. Equally unmistakable was the fact that inopportune power supply environment has been behind the strong preference for diesel pumps. A report of the Indo-Dutch UP Tubewell Project MAC-IDTP (1989), citing Government of Uttar Pradesh, Draft Annual Plan 1988-89, Volume I, stated:

`The overall shortfall in realisation of the Seventh Plan target of energization of private electrical tubewells is mainly due to cultivators’ preference for diesel driven sets. This preference derives from erratic and inadequate power supply in most areas and lower initial cost to cultivators for diesel sets.”[18]

There are many problems with the dieselisation of groundwater irrigation. Diesel is costlier energy source compared to electricity, in private as well as social terms, especially in Eastern India, which produces more than half of its power from hydroelectric sources. Electricity is also cleaner compared to diesel. Electric pumps are easier and cheaper to maintain compared to diesel pumps that suffer heavy wear and tear. Finally, as we saw, diesel pumps produce a monopolistic pump irrigation market that transfers wealth from resource poor water buyers to pump owners, and forces the buyers to economize on the use of water whose marginal social value, in East Indian context, is negative. Despite all these, it would be appropriate to say that nothing else has produced as much welfare for the small and marginal farmers of Eastern Uttar Pradesh as diesel-pump driven shallow tubewells. The central issue of interest is: why was the rest of Eastern India unable to dieselize its groundwater irrigation as rapidly as Eastern UP did during the 1985-95 period.

The Diesel Pump Dealer Dynamic

Inopportune power supply environment was certainly a key reason behind the rapid increase in the population of diesel pumps in Eastern UP during the 1980’s. However, an equally important reason was the great success that the people of Eastern UP made of another of the state government interventions to stimulate groundwater development. Around 1975, when UP government decided to switch to flat electricity tariff, the Reserve Bank of India, concerned about Eastern India’s failure to take off agriculturally, appointed a high-powered committee to explore the issue. The Committee bemoaned the slow pace of groundwater development as the primary cause, and recommended a liberal subsidy to stimulate private groundwater development. Following this, the Government of Uttar Pradesh launched a poverty-targeted ‘Free-Boring Scheme’ (FBS) under which the minor irrigation department was to undertake the preparation of borewells (shallow tubewell) free of cost for small and marginal farmers; additionally, varying levels of subsidy were offered on diesel pumps to small and marginal farmers matching the degree of their social and economic backwardness. The Banks also chipped in with a loan to cover the down payment required from the farmer under a special refinancing arrangement from the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development. Bihar, West Bengal, Assam and Orissa followed suit with their own variants of pump subsidy schemes. Soon enough, the Government of India also launched a ‘Million Well Scheme’ with precisely the same objective, and targeting socially and economically backward farmers.

Until mid-80’s, however, all these well-intentioned minor irrigation subsidy schemes had produced little minor irrigation in the most groundwater-rich parts of Eastern India. When electric pumps dominated groundwater irrigation, the real barrier that kept the poorest from laying their hands on a pump was not the cost of the pump but the transaction costs, delays and hassle of getting an electricity connection. Electric tubewell ownership during the 1970’s was therefore highly scale-biased compared to the ownership of diesel pumpsets during the 1980s and 90’s. So, although the subsidy schemes covered electric as well as diesel pumps, the funds allocated to them remained grossly under-utilised. Now that electric tubewells were being decommissioned in large numbers, farmers began to turn to diesel pumps, but they—particularly, small farmers from backward communities--found the hassle and ‘transaction costs’ involved in accessing the Free Boring Scheme prohibitive and intimidating. A study in 1984 by the Delhi-based Society for Prevention of Wastelands Development concluded that even if all his paper-work were perfect, the decision on the application of a small farmer under the Free Boring Scheme took 11 months and scores of visits to the various offices involved: the Block Development Office, Minor Irrigation Department, Bank offices and the District Rural Development Agency. Another set of rounds would begin once his application was approved, to get GI pipes and valve issued from the Minor Irrigation Office, diesel pump issued from the stipulated dealers, and bank loan released from the Lead Bank designated for each district. Several other restrictions were in force: for example, only field staff of the minor irrigation department were allowed to make the bore using the department’s rig; only one or two pre-designated brands of diesel pumps were available to the farmer. Moreover, the farmer was obliged to offer ‘speed-money’ at every office—which meant that by the time the tubewell was commissioned, 35-40% of the subsidy was gone as speed money.

This is still the situation in North Bengal, Orissa and to a lesser extent in North Bihar. Eastern UP however managed to break free and transformed the diesel pump subsidy scheme into a powerful instrument of small holder irrigation. During mid-1980’s, a series of changes occurred in the design and implementation of the Free Boring Scheme (FBS) which pitchforked the private dealer of diesel pumps to the role of the central coordinating mechanism for the scheme. These changes sharply reduced the transaction costs small farmers faced in accessing the subsidy and loan scheme. The diesel pump dealer became the one-stop-shop for farmers wanting to set up a tubewell under the Free Boring Scheme. In course of unstructured interviews with nearly 200 small farmers in Gorakhpur, Maharajganj and Deoria districts of Eastern UP, we found that the diesel pump dealer had been one of the best things to happen to small farmers in the region; and that he had been instrumental in transforming the much-berated Free Boring Scheme into a powerful intervention in groundwater development. All that an eligible small farmer has to do now is to provide his photograph and land documents to the dealer of the brand of diesel pump he prefers; the dealer then takes over and completes the entire process of getting approvals and clearances from the government departments involved and the bank. The pump and GI pipes are issued to the farmer on the same day; he is free to hire local rig operators to get his boring done, and inside of a week of applying, his tubewell is commissioned. By then, the dealer has got all the formalities cleared and the transaction is completed. Scores of farmers we interviewed did agree that the cost of the pump without the subsidy would be lower by 8-10%; but considered this a small ‘service fee’ (sewa-shulk) for the red carpet the dealer laid out for them. By a rough estimate, over 800,000 small diesel-pump operated tubewells have been installed in the Eastern UP under the Free Boring Scheme after 1985, which probably irrigate a gross area of 2.4-3.2 m ha of their owners and water buyers’ land besides providing some much needed vertical drainage to the region. By any reckoning, this rapid increase in the diesel pump density is at the heart of Eastern UP’s belated Green Revolution which has still proved elusive to other flood-prone areas of Eastern India such as North Bengal, Coastal Orissa and North and Central Bihar.

What changes brought into play this virtuous ‘dealer dynamic’ is neither clear nor fully explored. But from our discussions with pump dealers and ‘beneficiaries’ throughout the region, the main procedural changes were: [a] the requirement that only Minor Irrigation Department staff make free bores was given up, and farmers were allowed to get their bores done by numerous private rigging contractors who did the job quicker, cheaper and better; [b] the insistence on the Minor Irrigation Department holding the stocks of one or two brands of pumps was abandoned; and the farmer was allowed to choose the brand he preferred; [c] through another procedural modification, it was now possible for the Banks to directly pay to the dealer for the diesel pump; the subsidy was adjusted in the farmer’s account while the balance, treated as a loan, is to be repaid by the farmer over 3 or 5 years in installments.

There is indicative evidence to suggest that these changes came about gradually in response to ‘pulls’ from the dealer community to simplify the procedures for accessing the FBS. As the de-electrification of rural Eastern UP gathered momentum, the demand for diesel pumps grew. The diesel pump dealers saw a great business opportunity in the decline of electric tubewells; and each district and taluka town of Eastern UP saw the rise of an uncommonly large community of (20-60) diesel pump dealers competing fiercely amongst themselves for increasing their market share in the growing market for diesel pumps. As the business grew, besides the brand-image and the dealer-image, the Unique Selling Proposition each dealer began to offer to his customers was the ease and speed of getting the FBS formalities completed at a low ‘service charge’ (sewa-shulk)[19]. Large dealers with reputed brands of pumps had a head start over smaller ones; some of these sold 3-4000 pumps/year and could therefore develop a different system of offering ‘rents’ to various agencies involved in processing FBS applications; they often paid monthly installments rather than a ‘piece rate’ that smaller dealers paid on a case-by-case basis; moreover, many large dealers began to keep a special team of staff whose sole job was to take a bunch of ‘subsidy files’ every morning from office to office and get them cleared by the evening. Many of these large dealers thus were able to offer farmers highly rated brands of pumps under FBS for as little as 5% of the subsidy as ‘service charge’. Smaller dealers are not as ‘efficient’ as larger ones in cutting the transaction costs of FBS access but are restrained from levying high ‘service charges’ because of the price leadership role of large dealers in setting reference service charge. It also seems that dealers, whom pump manufacturers offer pretty high retail margins varying from 18-30% of the sale price, gun for maximising their sales and market share rather than taking a cut from the 'service charge’ which therefore has little or no ‘rent’ extracted by the dealers.

How do we know that this so-called ‘dealer dynamic’ has helped stimulate Eastern UP’s groundwater development? There is no direct macro-level evidence; the 1992 minor irrigation census, when it becomes available, will provide some direct district wise data, which in comparison with the 1987 census data will provide a clear picture. However, all field studies on well irrigation suggest that a large majority of private pumps are diesel pumps, they are owned by small and marginal farmers, they were acquired under the pump subsidy scheme and, above all, they were installed in late 1980’s or early 1990’s. Another indicative evidence is provided by the data on the off-take of institutional credit for minor irrigation (read pumps and tubewells). Figure:11 shows the state-wise refinance provided for minor irrigation by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development which is a very good proxy for the off take of pumps under loan-subsidy scheme. It clearly shows that while the rest of Eastern India has been lukewarm in using NABARD’s refinance facility, UP has beaten even states like Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra where private small-holder irrigation has always been a strong sector.

This transformation of the FBS into an instrument of expanding small-farmer ownership of diesel pumps and bore-wells has powerful and far reaching ramifications. On the down-side, the pump dealer has been widely discredited as the shady operator on the scene precisely because he is at the centre-stage of the entire scheme and lay-observers see him as the recipient of the bribe that is the ‘service charge’ (sewa-shulk); even some pump manufacturers we interviewed considered them with disdain in the ‘wheeling-dealing’ class; it is also likely that the reformed Free Boring Scheme(FBS) is a trifle more prone to mis-targetting. However, the vastly beneficial overall impacts of the FBS under ‘dealer dynamic’ have been commonly overlooked: for one, it has expanded Eastern UP’s pump density (measured as the number of 5 hp pumps per 100 ha of farm lands) from less than 10 in mid-1970’s to 40-50 in early 1990’s; despite room for mis-targeting, FBS has probably single-handedly done far more to put a pump in the hands of the poor compared to any other policy initiative ever. The overall impact of high pump density is further leveraged by the increased intensity of competition among pump irrigation sellers, and its beneficial results for ultra-poor water buyers. Above all else, the increased diesel pump density has greatly moderated the disastrous impact of the rural de-electrification of Eastern UP; its role in ushering in Eastern UP’s ongoing agrarian transformation becomes all too clear when one compares today’s Eastern UP with regions like North Bengal which have little rural electrification and where diesel pump subsidy scheme works pretty much like the way it did in Eastern UP in early 1980’s. Eastern UP is already catching up with Western UP, Punjab and Haryana in terms of its agricultural productivity, land use intensity and other parameters of agrarian growth; but the rest of Eastern India, barring small pockets, is still stagnating in traditional technologies and methods, at least 20 years behind Eastern UP.

Lessons for Eastern India

Eastern Uttar Pradesh, a microcosm of Eastern India and the GBM basin, has also served as its leader and pathfinder. Our chief argument in this essay is that there have been striking parallels between Eastern UP and the rest of Eastern Indian states in the public policies pursued to stimulate groundwater development and how they have failed to achieve their objectives. To be sure, the gulf between Eastern and Western UP is analogous to the gulf between Eastern and the rest of India. In illustrating this gulf, we have derived figure 11 based on NABARD (1996)[20]; and from the analysis by Fan, Hazell and Thorat (1998) presented in table 6. Figure 11 shows that Eastern India contains over a fifth of India’s blocks, but it is home to nearly 88m, or a third of India’s rural poor. One department in which Eastern region has a great scope for poverty-focused development is groundwater; it has 25% of India’s usable groundwater resource; and less than 1/5th of it is developed. And as we reviewed earlier, developing this resource further can not only create livelihoods and agricultural growth but also alleviate the chronic problems of water logging and floodproneness that have bewitched the region. That there need be no worries on account of over-exploitation of groundwater in the Eastern region is also suggested by figure 11 which shows that only 4 of India’s 600 ‘dark’ blocks are in the Eastern region.

Eastern UP’s experience provides us many lessons for jump-starting Eastern India’s groundwater economy; but the most important is that public policies and programs—such as the public and community tubewell programs and rural electrification program--have not worked as planned. Based on our analysis, a strategy of stimulating poverty-focused groundwater development in Eastern India needs to have at least five elements: first, Eastern India needs to seriously reconsider its existing minor irrigation programs run by government bureaucracies which guzzle up funds but deliver little minor irrigation; second, while the electricity supply environment is in total disarray, innovative ideas need to be piloted to test alternative approaches to efficient metering and collection of electricity dues from millions of small users; third, programs are needed to improve the efficiency of electric as well as diesel pumps; fourth, there is need to promote smaller than 5 hp diesel pumps and improved manual irrigation technologies; finally, above all else, East Indian states need to reform their pump subsidy schemes on the lines that Uttar Pradesh has done so as to ameliorate the pump capital scarcity which lies at the heart of the problem. We deal with each of these at some depth in concluding this essay.

a. Public and Community Ownership and Management

With the deluge of studies and evaluations that testify to the resounding failure of public tubewell programs in Eastern UP and elsewhere in India, cessation of support to such programs should be a forgone conclusion; however, this is far from the case. In many states, new programs—mostly donor supported--are afoot to make new investments in group-owned and managed minor irrigation assets, or to rehabilitate past investments. This steadfast devotion of donors and governments to the notion that the poor can access benefits of groundwater irrigation only through government or community managed tubewells seems particularly unfounded in Eastern India where the conditions are best suited for small-scale owner managed tubewells. In Eastern UP, at least, the public tubewell program tried to harness scalar economies and new technologies—such as deep tubewells, piped distribution and dedicated power supply—to cover 100 ha or more of design command under each tubewell. But in many other East Indian states, government departments are building small tubewells of the type that private farmers have and operate these through a bureaucracy at levels, which do not even cover their operators’ salary. At the end of a spell of fieldwork in Puri district of Orissa, I found:

“ Of the 99 Lift Irrigation (LI) schemes that Orissa Lift Irrigation Corporation’s (OLIC) Pipli office is responsible in these three blocks, 61 are functional; last year (1997-98), according to OLIC records, these irrigated 1113 acres (average/LI: 18.2 acres) and collected irrigation fee of Rs 2,16,600 (average/LI: Rs 3550; average/acre: Rs 194.6). The economics of the LI's seem designed for unviability in perpetuity. Four new schemes were constructed in 1996-97 at a total cost of Rs 24 lakh; if this represents the general picture, the average 5 hp LI which commands an average of 6-7 acres costs Rs 6 lakh apiece or Rs 90,000+/acre or over Rs 200000/ha of net irrigated area commanded! Farmers build irrigation potential at 1/10th of this cost. This must be among the costliest irrigation potential created in a region, which abounds in ground and surface water. It is crazy that DRDAs and NABARD are throwing away good money after bad, but it is even crazier that a thoughtful donor like KFW keeps supporting OLIC’s new LI schemes (Shah 1998b).”

Similarly, in assessing the effectiveness of the Dutch-supported minor irrigation program in North Bengal, I found that:

‘..the critical challenge of minor irrigation development—and, indeed, of overall agrarian growth—in North Bengal is of dealing with the pump capital scarcity.. of raising its pump density of around 1-3 pumps/100 ha of net sown area to 25-40. This requires programs designed to put the pump into the hands of the poor.. North Bengal, instead, has been busy building minor irrigation miscellanies that guzzle funds but make little net addition to minor irrigation. Most of India gave up building new public TWs and big community-managed river lift irrigation schemes 15 years ago; but North Bengal—which does not need deep tubewells in the first place—has continued building them. [Then, the] use of buried pipeline distribution systems in North Bengal—a flat terrain with the marginal value of groundwater at sub-zero levels—seems to be a doubtful strategy. True, large group tubewells with buried pipelines are doing well in North Gujarat and Maharashtra where farmers have money and enterprise but not groundwater. North Bengal’s farmers have too much water but no pump capital; collective management of lift irrigation systems is neither necessary nor worthwhile for them. The correct minor irrigation strategy for Gujarat is clearly a wrong minor irrigation strategy for North Bengal; it should be the obverse of it (Shah 1998a). ’

The first important initiative needed to stimulate groundwater development is to discontinue forthwith these costly programs of building public and community managed deep tubewells and large river lift irrigation schemes. Countless examples show that these are costlier to build and operate compared to private small tubewells, they are extremely difficult to manage, and use technologies for which there is no rationale in Eastern India.

b. Electricity Supply and Pricing

Design and Construction Method for Deep Tubewells Considering Different Hydrological Parameters

18168 WordsAug 26th, 200973 Pages


Sajal Kumar Dutta

Shankar Kumar Debnath

Achinto Kumar Chakrabortty



September, 2001


Surface water is abundant in the wet season in Bangladesh. But during dry season, ground water ought to be the principal dry season source of water available in many areas in Bangladesh having agriculture potential. It is generally utilized where irrigation from surface source is difficult or impossible and water demand is high. Ground water pumping was, therefore, eminent and drilling and…show more content…

alizes 50 6.3 Verticality 51 6.4 Straightness 52 6.5 Gravel Pack 53

Chapter 7 Development of Well 58

7.1 Introduction 58 7.2 Preliminary Operation 59 7.3 Conventional Methods of Development in Bangladesh 60 7.3.1 Over Pumping 60 7.3.2 Back washing 61 7.4 Recommended Methods 63 7.4.1 Combination of Over Pumping and Back Washing 63 7.4.2 Positive Backwash Airlift Development 66 7.5 Commencement and Duration 67 7.6 Checking the Sand Content 68 7.7 Additional Gravel Pack 68 Page

Chapter 8 Pumping Test 69

8.1 Introduction 69 8.2 Equipment 69 8.3 Commencement 70 8.4 Details of the Test 70 8.5 Pumping Test Procedure 72 8.6 Water Samples, pH and EC Measurements 74

Chapter 9 Construction of Tubewell House and Discharge Box 75

Chapter 10 Details of the Project Work 76

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