Farmers unwilling to pay water cess
Deccan Chronicle.| AVINASH P SUBRAMANYAM
Since 2013-14, a majority of farmers in the state have not been paying the water cess
In Tirupati district, around 25,000 acres get canal water, 1.41 lakh acres get water from sources like tanks and 3,725 acres get water through lift irrigation programmes. In total, water cess is imposed on 1.70 lakh acres. DC file image
TIRUPATI: Though the state government had imposed water cess on irrigation, many farmers are said to be reluctant to pay it. While many claim that they do not use water from the government’s irrigation sources, some allege that they do not get water for irrigating their fields.
Groundwater is the major source of irrigation in the state, with nearly 49 per cent of net irrigation from wells and tube wells. The rest of the irrigation sources are canals, tanks and other water bodies. Despite the alleged improper irrigation system across many parts of the state, the irrigation department is trying hard to collect the water cess from the farmers, they allege.
An official of the irrigation department said many farmers were not willing to pay water tax, claiming that they were not using water from irrigation sources. "We have imposed cess only on the fields using water from the irrigation sources. But many are reluctant to pay the tax citing different reasons. They must note that the cess collected from farmers would be deposited in Water Users’ Association (WUAs) and gram panchayats’ accounts, and it would be spent on cleaning and desilting of canals, and repair works in case of any exigency like breach," the official said.
Under the new water tax module, the cess is decided based on the crop cultivated. For every kharif season, the water cess levied on paddy crop came at Rs 200 per acre, Rs 100 on chilli, Rs 350 on turmeric and Rs 500 on aquaculture, while in rabi season Rs 350 per acre is levied on paddy crop.
As per the information available, the irrigation potential of the state is 104.61 lakh acres, of which an ayacut of 65.62 lakh acres are being irrigated under major projects, 7.86 lakh acre under minor lift irrigation schemes and 31.13 lakh acre under small and medium scale projects and tanks. Since 2013-14, a majority of farmers in the state have not been paying the water cess. As a result, water cess worth `650 crore is currently pending in the state.
In Tirupati district, around 25,000 acres get canal water, 1.41 lakh acres get water from sources like tanks and 3,725 acres get water through lift irrigation programmes. In total, water cess is imposed on 1.70 lakh acres. Of the total pending cess of Rs 10.87 crore, only Rs 7.06 lakh have been collected so far. The division wise break up of pending water cess is Rs 4.16 crore in Srikalahasti, Rs 3.95 crore in Sullurpeta, Rs 2.08 crore in Gudur and Rs 66.79 lakh in Tirupati.
Farmers’ unions allege that there is a discrepancy in the water distribution. When some villages get excess water, many others are reportedly deprived of water, and some are not even under the official list of irrigation programmes. Since many farmers are dependent on groundwater for irrigating their crops, they are reluctant to pay water cess. They also denounced the government’s decision to collect the water tax for the current fasli year, including arrears if any with 6 per cent interest.