Nature is playing a spoilsport in the last 30-40 years. Irregular rainfall and that too scanty; insufficient rain for crops, long gaps between two spells, among others have made agriculture an uncertain profession. This irregular pattern is repeating itself over the years. It has impacted the dry farming in a big way. Most of the farming in Maharashtra depends on vagaries of nature. Dry farming comes to more than 80 percent. This means a majority of farmers have suffered immensely due to the irregular rains. If we look at agriculture, there is no guarantee about the kharip crop. The entire season has proved to be of no use to the farmers.
This bleak scenario is same everywhere in the district and the rest of Maharashtra. To counter such a situation, young and visionary Jayant Patil took decision to build a network of lift irrigation projects. This decision has paid rich dividends today as the farmers in the region no longer depend on rains for farming. The irrigation projects have benefited farmers in a big way, ensuring the welfare of three generations of the farmers and it will continue to lead to their welfare in future too. This is an undeniable fact.
After the untimely death of Bapu, Jayant Patil took over as the chairman of the sugar factory at a young age. He undertook extensive tours and he realized that two big rivers Krishna and Warna flow through the taluka. Still the farmers had not been able to use the riparian resources to grow their crops sufficiently. Only sugarcane is grown. Thousands of acres of land elsewhere in Taluka lay barren and held no guarantee of farm income. He felt the need to irrigate the land to make it useful. The farmers should get guaranteed water supply and without that the condition of the farming and farmers would not change, he felt.
He found that the overall situation was akin to drought-affected taluka and then he thought of doing something innovative. He decided to extend a helping hand to the farmers and involve them in cooperative movement. He thought of putting an end to the issue of water scarcity by implementing lift irrigation scheme. But then there was the question of funds. How to raise financial resources to implement the irrigation scheme? For, no bank would have extended such a huge loan without pledging collaterals. He decided to hold talks with many and find a way out. To begin with, the land was divided as per the natural and geographical condition. Then cooperative water supply societies were set up. Public consent was obtained to pledge their farmland with the banks in return for funds to run the scheme. Jayant Patil travelled extensively throughout the taluka, visiting every town and village, meeting and interacting with them. Every village and town is different, people are different and their thinking too is dissimilar. Some people came forth to extend hand to the scheme while there were others who found fault with the scheme. Jayant Patil assumed all this potpourri of reactions to the scheme to be natural and went ahead unhesitatingly. He was confident of the utility of his scheme and hence went from door to door, convincing the farmers of the usefulness of the scheme. He discussed the scheme with them in detail and told them about the several gains from it. He learnt from Bapu that Padyatra was the best means of meeting and interacting with people to propagate any scheme. Therefore he undertook an extensive ‘padyatra’ to propagate and promote the scheme. This padyatra reached every town and village. He told them about how they would face no water shortage and their farmland would get irrigated. However, for that they would have to mortgage their land with the bank. He assured them that the sugar factory would stand solidly behind them and urged them to refrain from practising any politics in all this as it involved everybody’s interest. He told them that if they participated in the scheme, their problem of water would get solved for ever and it would lead to the prosperity of the future generations. People got convinced of this argument and leaving aside politics and differences, they came forth. Jayant Patil stepped out of every village and town with the assurance of public participation in the scheme. Later loan cases were made and presented to the bank. A loan of Rs 48 crore was obtained by pledging the farms. The shortfall of Rs 12 crore was met with the contribution by the sugar factory. As many as 36 water societies were set up out of this fund and thus as many as 50000 acres of land was brought under irrigation.
At this time, Jayant Patil raised a demand before the then chief minister Sharad Pawar for granting subsidy to the farmers who on their own want to implement such big schemes. He reasoned with Pawar that when the government is spending a lot on building canals to supply water to the farmers, then why not give subsidy to the farmers who want to implement such schemes on their own. Pawar was convinced of this argument and then he announced a subsidy of 25 percent for such schemes. He made an announcement to this effect at a programme in Islampur. This relieved economic pressure on these schemes. Besides, this decision benefitted all the cooperative water schemes across the state. The credit for the same goes to the ingenuity of Jayant Patil. Thus the decision by Jayant Patil to implement this water scheme proved to be a destiny-changer. The entire taluka became rich and prosperous. Krishna river water reached down to the bottom of Mallikarjun hill while Warna river water reached up to the Shivpuri creek. All farmers started growing sugarcane. The sugar factory also bought the sugarcane at remunerative price and this put a lot of money in the hands of the farmers. Due to availability of plenty of water, green fodder was grown and this enabled the farmers to increase their dairy business. Rajarambapu Milk Federation gave away well-bred milch animals to the farmers. Thus milk business became a supplementary business for the farmers and they got payments in 10 days. This helped the farmers meet their day to day household expenses.
These farmers cultivated a plenty of sugarcane for the sugar factory. The sugarcane crop increased to such an extent that the stock lasted well beyond July and hence the sugarcane had to be given to other factories in the district. This caused a loss to the sugar factory and hence Jayant Patil found a way out. He started a unit of Rajarambapu sugar mill at Wategaon-Surul. This was the first experiment of its kind in the country and it expanded the area of operation of the sugar mill. Today, the sugar mill has two more units at Karandwadi and Jat. These units crush a great deal of sugarcane and produce tonnes of sugar. There is a revolution in the life of farmers since they always get remunerative prices for their sugarcane. So far the water scheme has benefitted three generations. The generation with Rajarambapu got benefitted, followed by Jayant Patil’s generation and now the family’s third generation of young farmers is deriving benefits from the water scheme. Standard of living of all people has increased and their life has brightened up.
Jayant Patil ensured strict and skillful management of the water schemes too and hence all the 36 water societies have paid off their debts. A cumulative deposit of Rs 16 crore is left in several irrigation schemes. Many sugar factories have carried out such experiments but if you look at the pitiable condition of their water scheme you will realize the uniqueness of Rajarambapu sugar mill. The irrigation scheme has cooled down the entire region and it has charged the ground with water. A large quantity of water has percolated down the land and hence the ground water level of the taluka has increased. As a result, the water levels in the well, bore well have increased and this water too is being used for agriculture. Now the next phase has begun. Awareness is being spread regarding the careful use of water. Due to availability of abundance of water, the farmers started squandering water and using chemical fertilizers. This excessive use of water added salinity to the soil and resultantly the farm productivity decreased. Therefore, the awareness has been created for minimizing the use of water. As a part of awareness program, Jayant Patil has started stressing the need for adopting drip irrigation method. As a result of this campaign, all the water schemes of two villages were equipped with computerized drip irrigation sets. Gotkhadi and Mahadev water societies have enforced 100 percent computerized drip irrigation sets on 600 acres of farmland. They got a grant of Rs 1.04 crore as a special case through the effort of Jayant Patil. This scheme is going on successfully. Similarly, Ahirwadi has also adopted this computerized drip irrigation method and installed the sets on 100 acres through Sangeeta Sanjay Ahir cooperative water society. The scheme also got the subsidy of Rs 15 lakh.
Henceforth, water will have to be used carefully. Sugar mill is engaged in generating awareness about drip irrigation sets. Through the effort of the sugar mill, 1469 hectares 27 R area has been brought under drip irrigation system. The members were given subsidy worth Rs 9159195. This has led to the saving of 30 to 40 percent in cultivation cost and also led to 10 to 15 percent increase in production. This sugar factory gives subsidy of Rs 6000 per acre up to 3 acres. ie up to Rs 18000. Henceforth, the use of drip irrigation method is necessary. It will not be a wonder if the entire area is brought under drip irrigation in the near future.
This entire miracle is the result of Jayant Patil’s visionary policies. This water scheme has made the entire taluka prosperous and happy. The credit for this prosperity goes to Jayant Patil’s decision 30 years ago.