After working to set up the cooperative and canvassing for support from the villagers the next step involved getting bank loans and hire contractors to begin construction of the dams before the onset of monsoons. “We faced significant hurdles from the banks for every project due to corruption and collusion for their own personal gains between the bank officials giving loans and the contractors assigned to build the dam.’ said Prof Jajoo.
Banks, citing efficiency and timely implementation of the project, push the villager to let all the purchases be made by the contractors. However, after signing of the contractual agreement, the contractors have little incentives to go for the most competitive prices for the raw materials thus increasing the overall cost of the project.
After a study tour to Sangamner town, where an irrigation project was being implemented, the wide gap between the market price and procurement price for raw materials was pointed out to the expert, bank and contractor. However, we were rendered helpless in the face of corrupt collusion among them. Further the pressure to complete the projects before rainy season began and the concern of interest mounting if the projects were halted played right into the hands of these corrupt individuals.’ Said Prof Jajoo.
‘While planning the lift irrigation scheme for Dindoda village, we did not allow for huge profit margins during negotiations. However, the bank officials and expert now connived together and radically changed the original plan without our consent and imposed the entire loan burden on the villagers. When we protested the work was brought to a complete stand-still. Despite no work being done, the interest payment continued to mount with increased risk of defaulting on the loans.’
Internal hurdles also had to be surmounted. For instance in Khadaka village the farmer with land possession on the river bank, suddenly refused to allow the laying of the pipes through his farm land and wanted increased re-imbursement. Legal action though possible would delay the scheme implementation and also provoke conflict. The co-operative society had to pay this farmer a price to move forward.
Impact of the scheme
Despite all these hurdles and painful experiences, we were successful in implanting these irrigation-lift projects in Khadaka village.
After twenty years of successful execution of the lift irrigation in Khadaka, the question gets asked– did support irrigation facility help farmer becoming self-reliant through agriculture?
Availability of more water did allow for farmers to switch to cultivating cash-crops like sugarcane. For those cultivating regular crops, support irrigation did provide security and better yield. “However, we realized that modern science and technology can do little to common man when other powerful forces beyond their control like exploitative market pricing in the form of support price, corruption, and inadequate supply of electricity continued to be major hurdles for them.
Prof. Jajoo concluded ,’However, this experience also brought about realization that market system has been created to exploit those who survive on ‘bread labour’, thus sowing seeds for the idea of of Bajaar-Mukti (freedom from market) and directing us to ‘Agriculture’ as an instrument for self- reliance and empowerment! Building a pro-people, democratic structure in society is pre-requisite for the ‘soul’ of humanity to establish on the throne and dictate the desired social transformation.’
For the project planned in the village of Khadaka, the banks were approached for sanctioning the loan. In the garb of sanctioning loans, the modus operandii of the bank officials, viz hijacking the turnkey elements of engineering, procurement and construction through a contractor, was a painful learning process.