Agricultural analysts and farmers have linked the Planning Commission’s proposal pertaining to rationalisation of Abiyana rates to finance irrigation system, with an international conspiracy to harm the country’s agricultural system, revealed a survey conducted by Business Recorder on Monday.
During conversations with this scribe, majority of analysts rejected the Planning Commission’s proposal about the up-gradation of per acre water cost, saying that the country’s agriculture system is already facing several challenges, including hike in the prices of pesticides and seeds. They blamed the Planning Commission for orchestrating a conspiracy against the agricultural system. “The government is considering increasing water cess (Abiana) by more than five times from the current rate of Rs 56.30 and Rs 92 per acre water cost for Rabi and Kharif crops respectively.
Water theft would rise if the government increases Abiana. Farmers in Punjab are already facing 40 to 60 per cent shortage of water and the farmers whose agricultural lands are located at the tail end of the canals are not receving a single drop of water for their crops despite of paying water taxes,” Ibrahim Mughal, Chairman Agricultural Forum Pakistan told Business Recorder. Rejecting the maximum autonomy idea proposed by the Planning Commission, Mughal said that at present 70 % of expenditure cost is currently paid by farmers while the government invests the remaining 30% for the reconstruction of water tributaries. “Farmers have to pay “300 percent more” than the actual dues of Abiana -largely due to tactics used by patwaris. Farmers across the country, particularly in Punjab are facing hardship as they are getting 40 percent less than their due share because of scarcity of water.
The Indian government has removed water taxes for the basic reason that it had to pay more as ‘collection charges’ than the money it received,” he said. He said that the purposed recommendations would be favourable for landlords with thousands of acres of agricultural land but not for small farmers, adding that water distribution between the provinces is not fair and Indus River System Authority (Irsa) should be held accountable. Earlier, the Planning Commission’s purposed per acre water cost (Abiana) was too low to cover irrigation system operations and maintenance cost of the canal system and Rs 5.4 billion subsidies were given by the provincial governments collectively to run the system in the country.
The Planning Commission suggested that the water charges, known as Abiana, need to be based on crop water requirement per acre so that water shortage could be reflected in water charges and be an incentive for farmers to use water efficiently for higher financial return. It proposed higher rates for water-intensive crops like rice, sugarcane and cotton.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2012