ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Miracle or Myopia?

This is with reference to the article “Secret of Gujarat’s Agrarian Miracle after 2000” by Tushaar Shah et al (EPW, 26 December 2009). The data presented in the article to back the arguments about recent agricultural growth in Gujarat and the drivers of the same expose the authors’ poor understanding of agriculture and the water sector in the state. Some of the several flaws in the article are as follows: (1) Selecting 1999-2000 and 2000-01 as the base years for estimating agricultural growth during the recent years is misleading as both were drought years during which agriculture in Gujarat suffered a major setback. (2) The authors do not look at agricultural growth during the previous few decades, and rush to conclude that the state has never been known for “agrarian dynamism”. (3) In the analysis, the authors ignore the vibrant dairy sector, which the state is known for, and which is the largest subsector of agriculture that grew steadily and remarkably during the past 30-40 years. (4) Attributing the difference in waterlevel fluctuations during the monsoon between two different time periods (2000 and 2008) to water harvesting and recharge structures is intriguing as the figures only show the impact of very high rainfall received during 2008, as compared to 2000, which was a drought year. (5) The authors’ argument that surface irrigation development is languishing in the state, and that Sardar Sarovar Project is irrigating only 80-100 thousand ha, is misleading. In fact, the direct utilisation of irrigation water in the first phase of the Narmada command alone was 1,800 MCM by March 2008, sufficient to irrigate around 3.0 lakh ha. Over and above this, the hundreds of thousands of diesel engines installed on the side of Narmada Main C anal, branch canals and the rivers receiving Narmada flows irrigate a few lakh hectares of land in north Gujarat. (6) The authors’ discovery of cotton yield going up “sixfold” in seven years from 2001 to 2008 is a total misinterpretation of facts. The yield has steadily grown from 130 kg/ha in 1949-50 to nearly 787 kg/ha most recently, with some sharp declines in drought years.

Overall, the article displays the authors’ dislike for canal irrigation and dairy production.

V K Srinivasu

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