Economic Survey: Without accurate account of ground realities, can one expect any sound path to future?

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‘Economic Survey 2020’: Where is the ground reality? An analysis by South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP):

One of the key objectives of the Economic Survey is to provide an accurate account of ground realities on various aspects affecting the Economy of the country and also what has the govt been doing to address the issues that such an account throws up. From a look at the key issues that SANDRP focuses on, it seems that the Economic Survey for 2019-20 that was released on January 31, 2020 does not even attempt to provide an account of the ground realities.

Missing key aspects

For example, Economic Surveys used to provide area irrigated in India from various sources in the latest year, the rainfall figures during South West Monsoon, the water storage situation in major reservoir before and after monsoon, to name a few. We do not find any mention of these in the Economic Survey 2020.

South West Monsoon is such an important event that has so much bearing on the various aspects of rural and urban economy, besides the agriculture, but we find no mention of that in three volumes of the ES 2020. The monsoon was irregular in many aspects, with late and slow start and then when most of the rainfed areas had missed the optimum Kharif sowing date, it poured heavily starting from August.

In fact, during the South West Monsoon 2019 during the period that ES 2020 is supposed to cover, several areas faced floods, and many of them faced dam induced floods. All this is bound to have huge impact on the Kharif and also Rabi crops, and particularly on rural economy (over 50% of India still leaves in villages) and that will also have ripple effect on the rest of the economy. But there is no mention of this in the ES 2020, except tangential reference in the context of inflation.

The word ‘monsoon’ appears in ES 2020 only in the context of impact of excessive rain on coal sector! The word Rain occurs four times, mostly to mention about promotion of Rain Water Harvesting and Jal Shakti Abhiyaan, but there is no discussion on the quantum of rainfall this year, its pattern, its impacts and even effectiveness of rain water harvesting measures.

Rivers in general, including river rejuvenation is supposed to be a major program of the current Union government, with special focus on Ganga, but the Report card from the government that ES 2020 is supposed to be has no mention of it. In fact, the word ‘river’ or ‘Ganga’ could not be found in the ES 2020. The word ‘waterways’ appear twice, only to say they are being promoted, but nothing about what is the situation after promoting for so many years.

The word ‘flood’ appears in Vol. 2 only in the name of the department or in the context of inflation. Word ‘disaster’ occurs 11 times in Vol. 2, but mostly in the context of CDRI or Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, an international initiative.

Groundwater is India’s water lifeline, but the word “Ground Water” appears four times, twice in the name of Central Ground Water Authority (no substantial issues discussed) and once in reference to 2011 assessment of groundwater blocks. So even in the year 2020, the government does not even have latest groundwater data in its annual economy report card?

The Government spends thousands of crores on hydropower projects, but the word hydropower occurs in ES 2020 only in the name of THDC (Tehri Hydropower Development Corporation) since govt intends to divest from that entity, nothing about the hydropower situation. The figures of hydropower generation and installed capacity in the tables in Vol. 3 (Statistical Appendix) in fact shows stagnation in hydropower capacity for last several years and also diminishing generation per MW installed capacity, but the ES 2020 has no mention of any of it.

Key messages

Key messages from Economic Survey 2019-20 released on Jan 31 2020 by way of quotes.


“The coverage of irrigation facilities needs to be extended while ensuring an effective water conservation mechanism.” (para 7.55, all from Vol. 2 unless otherwise mentioned.) It is not explained how this is to be increased, except “Considering this, the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) was launched on 1st July, 2015 with the motto of ‘Har Khet Ko Paani’ for providing end-to end solutions in irrigation supply chain, viz. water sources, distribution network and farm level applications. Per Drop More Crop component of PMKSY (PMKSY-PDMC) is operational from 2015-16 in the country focussing on water use efficiency at farm level.” (7.10) and some discussion on micro irrigation. But there is no mention of the big irrigation projects on which the government spends most of its Water Resources Budget.

area“A dedicated Micro Irrigation Fund (MIF) created with NABARD has been approved with an initial corpus of ` 5000 crore facilitating the States in mobilizing the resources for expanding coverage of Micro Irrigation envisaged under PMKSY-PDMC and also in bringing additional coverage through special and innovative initiatives by State Governments.” There are no credible figures to show that the micro irrigation is really happening on ground or are these just paper tigers. The suspicion becomes stronger since this is a corporate driven agenda with one or two corporates benefiting in big way.

More disturbingly, methods like SRI can deliver better benefits than micro irrigation while also achieving water efficiencies similar to micro irrigation, without need for any such equipment, but the ES 2020 does not even mention it.

How much water are we exporting? The Economic Survey 2020 provides following table giving figures of agricultural export in recent years.


The survey should have calculated and mentioned what does this mean in terms of export of water and particularly from drought prone and groundwater depleting areas.

Jal Shakti Abhiyan

“Jal Shakti Abhiyan (JSA) has delivered over 3.5 lakh water conservation measures in 256 districts. Out of these, 1.54 lakh are of water conservation and rain water harvesting measures, 20,000 relate to the rejuvenation of traditional water bodies, over 65,000 are reuse and recharge structures and 1.23 lakh are watershed development projects.” (Para 10.61) One expected better sense of what this means in terms of water conservation rather than just putting up the figures of one particular effort.

National Water Mission

The ES 2020 has a para on this supposedly major water sector initiative of the government of India in the context of climate change on page 175. Anyone who knows anything about water sector could see through that this is absolutely entirely Business as usual activity and nothing there is new or can help address climate change. So even when the ES 2020 tries to say something here, there is no depth or application of mind to it, it seems.

Rural Sanitation Strategy 2019-2029

Similarly, it is claimed: “The Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DDWS), Ministry of Jal Shakti launched the 10 Year Rural Sanitation Strategy (2019-2029), which focus on sustaining the sanitation behaviour change that has been achieved under the Swachh Bharat Mission Grameen (SBM-G), ensuring that no one is left behind, and increasing access to solid and liquid waste management.” The strategy is supposed to ensure “every village has access to solid and liquid waste management.” (Para 10.59) But it’s not clear how this will be achieved.

Moreover, it says: “Swachh Survekshan Grameen 2019 survey covered 17,450 villages in 698 districts across India and include 87,250 public places namely schools, anganwadi centers, public health centres, haat/bazaars/religious places, making it India’s largest rural sanitation survey.” (10.60) But it does not say what did the survey said.

Over-emphasis on mechanization?

“With the shrinking land and water resources and labour force, the onus rests on mechanization of production and post-harvesting operations. There is a linear relationship between availability of farm power and farm yield and Government has decided to enhance farm power availability from 2.02 kW per ha (2016-17) to 4.0 kW per ha by the end of 2030 to cope up with increasing demand for food grains.” (para 7.6)

“Indian tractor industry is the largest in the world, accounting for one-third of the total global production.” (Para 7.7)

“… a Sub Mission on Agricultural Mechanization was launched in 2014- 15. Under the scheme, assistance is provided to State governments to impart training and demonstration of agricultural machinery, provides assistance to farmers for procurement of various agricultural machineries and equipment and for setting up of Custom Hiring Centre. Under the scheme, total funds allocated during 2014-15 to 2018- 19 was Rs 3377.07 crore and during 2018-19 it was Rs 1027.46 crore.” (Para 7.8)

“However, overall farm mechanization in India has rather been lower (40-45 per cent) compared to other countries such as USA (95 per cent), Brazil (75 per cent) and China (57 per cent). A significant share of India’s tractor production is also exported.” (Para 7.9) What is the impact of mechanization on employment in rural areas or on environment is not even mentioned.

Inland fisheries

“The inland resources are in the form of rivers and canals (1.95 lakh km), floodplain lakes (8.12 lakh hectares), ponds and tanks (24.1 lakh hectares), reservoirs (31.5 lakh hectares), brackish water (12.4 lakh hectares), saline/ alkaline affected areas (12 lakh hectares) etc… The total fish production in the country stood at 13.42 million metric tonnes (provisional) during 2018-19. Of this, the marine fisheries contributed 3.71 million metric tonnes and the inland fisheries contributed 9.71 million metric tonnes. During 2018-19, 71 per cent of marine fisheries potential and 58 per cent of the inland fisheries potential have been harnessed… To address the gaps in fisheries infrastructure, the government has created the Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund (FIDF) during 2018-19 with a total fund size of Rs 7,522.48 crore.” (Para 7.28-30)

marine fish

It’s good to see this mention about inland fisheries, it provides employment to millions, but there is nothing much that the Economy does for them.

fish production

Ease of doing business at the cost of basic regulation?

Table 6 in Chapter 8 (Vol. II) has this interesting fact. One of the initiatives of the government for achieving Ease of doing business: “Single consent under air and water pollution laws. Returns will be accepted through self-certification and only 10 percent MSME units to be inspected.” It’s status: “All the operations were stayed by Hon’ble High court of Delhi. As of now the matter is sub-judice.” The High Court decision is welcome and it should in fact be a wake call for the Economy.

Infrastructure pipeline 2020-25

Also in Chapter 8, under National Infrastructure Pipeline for 2020-25 includes:

  • Irrigation: 772 678 Cr (Massive amount, where will this be spent?)
  • Rural Water and Sanitation: 361 810 Cr (there is no sign of this so far, may be sign of what is in store in budget 2020-21?)
  • Urban (including Amrut, Smart Cities, Jal Jeevan Mission) 1629 012 Cr (compare this with pipeline for rural infrastructure)
  • Renewable Energy: Rs 929 500 Cr

Total power sector estimate Rs 2454 259 Cr.

Sustainable Development Goal Index

“…the 2019 (SDG) Index is more comprehensive and highlights the progress being made by the States/UTs on a wider set of 100 indicators spread across 16 goals.” (Para 6.1) The index has been rather liberally evaluated, it seems: “States with scores equal to/greater than 65 are considered as Front-Runners (in Green); as Performers (in Yellow) in the range of 50-64 and as Aspirants (in Red) if the score is less than 50. As per the SDG Index, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Goa, Sikkim, Chandigarh and Puducherry are the front runners (Map 1). It is noteworthy that none of the States/ UTs fall in the Aspirant category in 2019.” (Para 6.3) And ES is happy to certify India: “Overall, it is encouraging to note that the composite score for India has improved from 57 in 2018 to 60 in 2019, indicating the impressive progress made by the country in its journey towards achieving the SDGs.” (Para 6.4)

rural water

In the end

At least on water related issues, the Economic Survey 2020 is found totally inadequate in reflecting the ground realities. Without accurate account of ground realities, can one expect any sound path to the future? The Budget of 2020-21 seems to start on a major handicap in this respect.


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