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Gondavillage lift irrigation co-operative society

"We are very unhappy with the state of affairs in our society", lamented Shri Phul Sinh, Chairman of the Lift Irrigation Co-operative Society of Gonda village."The Gujarat Electricity Board has billed us Rs.52,000 for the years 88-89 and 89-90, even though we started using electric motors only from 89-90 and ran our motors only for three months or so during rabi 89-90.We don’t see why we should pay for the entire period."

"Nor do we understand how to go about fixing irrigation charges for our members using water from our society.The secretary, Daulat Bhai does not care to explain the basis to us.Since he is the Sarpanch of Sarkhej, (a neighbouring village 3 km away), he doesn’t spend adequate time in managing the affairs of our society.Our pipeline connecting the first stage with the second stage is lying broken for the past few months and in spite of our repeated requests to Bansali Foundation, it is not yet repaired.Since this is the beginning of the monsoon season, this is not critical.But this has to be done before the ensuing rabi season when we need to operate the lift irrigation scheme in full swing."

Operational from 1986-87, the lift irrigation (LI) scheme was promoted and executed by the Bansali Foundation (Bansali), a non-governmental organisation focusing on ruraldevelopment,primarilythrough water and land development programmes at village level.Lately, the foundation had also initiated projects in other areas like social forestry, handicrafts, health, bee-keeping etc.The Gonda Village Lift Irrigation Society was one of the 39 such village level lift irrigation schemes promoted by Bansali so far, in the predominantly tribal district of Valsad in Gujarat state.

Prepared by Professor R Rajagopalan, IRMA, based on Induction Field Work for the students of the PRM 90-92 batch.Venu P Nair, Rajesh P Ghatge, Rajeev K Raman and Anurag of PRM 90-92 helped the author.Their help is gratefully acknowledged.

Case material of the Institute of Rural Management, Anand, is prepared as a basis for class discussion.Cases are not designed to present illustrations of either correct or incorrect handling of administrative situations.

(c) Institute of Rural Management, Anand 388001, India, 1991.

The capital cost of Rs.14.89 lakhs for the Gonda scheme was obtained from the irrigation department of the state government.The survey and design for the scheme was done by a reputed consultancy firm with extensive experience in lift irrigation projects.The project report envisaged a command area of 1000 acres over the three seasons (kharif 450 acres, rabi 450 acres and summer 100 acres) at a capital cost of approximately Rs.1500/acre compared to the irrigation department’s norm of Rs.1600/acre. Though nothing specific was mentioned, presumably the then existing cropping pattern was the basis for estimating the water requirement for the proposed command area. The capital cost covered the cost of pumping equipment, construction of pump houses, laying of underground pipelines and construction of kundis (water outlets for a group of farmers).The field channels for carrying water to individual pieces of land was to be cut by respective farmers.

The source of water was the Ambaji Talav, a tank built over the River Kharod flowing through Gonda village.Some other small rivulets also flowedinto thetank.Before the LI scheme, water from the talav was used for flow irrigation only.The height of the wasteweir* and the dam was raised by 1 m to provide the additional storage needed for the lift irrigation scheme. The water was to be lifted to a relative height of 149 m** in two stages (see Exhibit 1), upto 128.75 m by the first stage and from that to the main chamber at 149 m by the II stage pump.From the main chamber and from the main pipeline connecting the two stages, underground distribution (branch) pipelines of various capacities (diameters) were constructed to reach various kundis.The pump houses at each stage was provided with two electric motors of 40 HP each, and a diesel motor of 40 HP as a back up. The project report envisaged 16 hrs of pumping/day by each electric motor to provide a water discharge rate of 6 cusecs (1 cu ft/sec = 28 litres/sec) or 170 litres/sec at each stage.Given the thenexisting cropping pattern, 1 cusec was estimated sufficient for irrigating 75 acres and thus the command area was 450 acres during kharif and rabi.

Wasteweir in this talav is a gently sloping structure which enabled the river to flow smoothly further downstream after filling the talav.

** Floor level of the tank was at a relative height of 110 m.Thus the total head by which water has to be lifted is 149-110 = 39 m in two stages.

The command area of the LIschemecovered only a part of the agricultural land of Gonda village, characterized by undulating (ups and downs) topography.Some lands were getting flow irrigation from Ambaji Talav and others were still rain-fed or irrigated through well water.The total agricultural land in Gonda was about 925 hectares out of which about 775 hectares were cultivated for a second crop also during rabi.The village itself was huge in size (2,700 hectares) and the total population of about 11,000 lived in 14 widely spread out hamlets called falias*. Each falia was typically inhabited by a particular caste or sub-caste (see Exhibit 2). There were broadly two major castes: Adivasi Patels and Bhil tribals and within them sub-classifications.Each falia has the name of the particular sub-caste living in it.Walking distance between falias is typically 1-3 kms.

Explaining the basis on which the command area was decided upon, Shri Shah, ChiefExecutiveof Bansali said, "That is mostly a technical matter; the water availability, topography, irrigation intensity and frequency based on soils and cropping pattern etc., are factors considered in designing the scheme.In this area, we designschemes in such a way that we should be able to provide one cycle of irrigation in our command area every 21 days or so."

"Once we design and execute the lift irrigation schemes, we sort out initial teething troubles and then let the society run its affairs on its own.We provide only certain back-up services like major repairs andmaintenance, liaison with co-operative department of the government and GEB/diesel suppliers, maintenance of statutory records and books of accounts etc.", explained Shri Shah, "three things we make very clear to the people even before we start the project: no operating subsidy whatsoever, no interference by Bansali in running of the affairs of the societies and that cost of lift irrigation will be much more than the flow irrigation cost usually charged by the government.In fact these things about us are well known in this area."

Commenting on the distribution of members amongst the several falias and the composition of the management committee of the

* The definition of a falia is not strict in the sense different persons will partition the village into different number of falias depending on the degree of detail.The same hamlet might be known by different names.

Gondal society (Exhibit 3), Shri Shah said, "You see, a management committee democratically elected by a well informed membership is the ideal everyone should strive for.But given the local conditions and tribal population, we need to appreciate the practical considerations of the people.Theytypically get elders from major falias nominated to the management committee.In terms of membership, Gargadi falia is not important.Still theymade Phul Sinh from Gargadi falia the Chairman, in spite of knowing fully well that he is corrupt, mainly because of his nuisance value. In addition, he took keen interest while the project was under execution. His falia is the nearest to the talav and the pump houses.Gargadi falia is also a major beneficiary of flow irrigation from the same talav. Nobody from the existing management committee or the membership will challenge his leadership."

Daulat Bhai responding to the adverse comments on him by Phul Sinh said, "Phul Sinh is being unfair and clever; the members pass such comments on me especially when it is time for collection of irrigation charges after rabi harvest is over.They want everything to be free.Here is the register in which I have maintained meticulous records of each season, giving details of land irrigated by each member, their cropping pattern, number of irrigations, irrigation charges, money collected and still due from each member.Do you think anybody would pay up unless this register is reliable? Anybody can verify the books of accounts maintained at the foundation office.All these have been audited. The audited balance sheets and profit and loss accounts for the past three years (Exhibits 4 & 5) will show that the society has been running profitably every year.I think Phul Sinh is simply jealous of me being elected the Sarpanch of Sarkhej village whereas he has lost the Sarpanch election in Gonda.His own brother stood against him and split the Bhil votes."

"Nor can I understand why Phul Sinh or anybody else should say that they don’t understand the basis of fixing irrigation charges", he continued, "till last year, we were using diesel only.The society had to pay for diesel, my salary of Rs.550/month for 12 months, 2 chowkidars, one for each pump house @ Rs.180/month/chowkidar for 12 months, 2 pump operators, one for each pump house @ Rs.360/month/operator during the season (October-March) and one water distributor at each stage on a daily wage of Rs.10-12/day, during the season.To this we have to add the actual expenditure on repairs and maintenance, and a margin for building up surpluses over years.We simply used to divide the total by the number of acre irrigations done during the year to get irrigation charges per acre-irrigation (number of acre irrigations = number of acres x number of irrigations/acre).Users from the first stage are charged a bit less than users from second stage because they need only one pumping."

Daulat Bhai got visibly angry, "Phul Sinh is being uncharitable.His son Mahindra, doing post-graduation in Hindi, has been appointed the chowkidar of the first pump house.There is just no way that Phul Sinh can be unaware of the affairs of the society.In fact, in spite of my pleading to the contrary, he changed the well established system of charging on the basis of acre-irrigations to one based on simply acres.For example, this year (89-90) the charges are Rs.320/acre for first stage users and Rs.400/acre for II stage users, irrespective of the numberof irrigations. I have already collected Rs.30,000 or so from various members."

Shri Shah was surprised to learn from Shri Makwana, working in the co-operative cell of Bansali Foundation that apart from Gonda society, 3 or 4 other village LIsocietiesalso have changed over to the system of charging on per acre basis, from the previous system of per acre-irrigation. But Shri Shah himself was not sure about what should be the basis of fixing irrigation charges.Explaining the dilemma he said, "Aslong as the cost of operations, whether diesel or electricity motors, was fully variable with water usage, our previous system of charge fixation was quite logical and straight forward.The only problem was that we could not visualise charging enough to build up surpluses over a period to provide for eventual capital replacement.But the GEB, in the name of providing subsidised electricity to agricultural uses, fixed a flat rate of Rs.192/HP/year* irrespective of actual usage.Given that our schemes operate only for 3-4 months (during rabi) in a year and that too for around 16 hours/day at full utilisation, there is no subsidy at all.Worse still, if water is not available from the sources, we may not operate at all during a year, but stillwe have to pay the fixed electricity bill.For example, during 89-90, five of our LI schemesdidnot operate at all because there was no water available due to drought.We have been pleading with GEB and the state government to disconnect our lines during off-

* This rate itself was much higher initially but GEB relented to reduce it to this level because of protests from agriculturalists.

seasons and drought years andchargeus the pro-rata flatratesonlyfor3-4 months when the schemes were actually working.Theflat-rate system is subsidising only rich farmers in the regions where water is perennially available like Kheda, Mehsana etc. The economists-academicians who promoted this flat-rate system havenot studied its impact on community lift irrigation schemes of poor people, which operate only seasonally."

"The direct nexus between costs of operation and water usage has been broken by the flat-rate system.The societies will be forced to increase water usage to minimise their unit costs.This is all right if water is not scarce.But what if it is?How do we justify charges on per acre basis if irrigation intensity is different for different crops?How do we justify continuing with charges on per acre-irrigation basis if the costs are fixed?If we switch over to charges on per acre basis, what is the incentive for the farmer to optimallyusewater?Choose water saving crops over water-intensive crops?Exploit his own well water in conjunction with lift irrigation society’s water?What if all the members switch over to water intensive crops and the society can not provide enough water at the required frequency to everybody?Bansali itself is struggling to find a way out of this mess.Still, we should try to understand on what logic specific societies like Gondachanged their system of charging."

Lala Bhai Chunna Bhai Parmar, Deva Bhai Nana Bhai Parmar and Shakra Bhai Dala Bhai were all members from the Parmar falia who were in the management committee of the society.They professed ignorance on the way the society is managed."The management committee meetings or general body meetings are not called as often as required.Bansali Foundation decides most of the things.We were simply asked whether we have any objection to Daulat Bhai being appointed as the Secretary.We are paying up our charges for the current year even though we do not understand the new system.It is only the Bhils who are irresponsible and refuse to pay up in time.You see, the problem in Gonda is not with water availability.There is enough water in the Gargadi talav even in bad years.The problem isinadequate water pumping rate.The operators give some excuse or other but the real reason is they are jealous because their land does not fall in the command area. With inadequate water supply, farmers near the kundis do not allow water reach lands farther away unless their irrigation needs are fully met.This is especially harmful if everybody goes in for onion cultivation in rabi (like in 88-89) which requires 8-12 irrigations compared to 4-6 for wheat/maize and 2-3 for channa (gram).The water distributors do not monitor things nor do they command our respect.Farmers simply open and close the kundis as and when they like.We can’t trust what Daulat Bhai says either.In the beginning of this season he said that charges/acre will be different for different crops but at the end we are being charged per acre irrespective of which crop we grew.Nor was the management committee consulted before changing the system of charging.Still we are not complaining.Thoughthereisno conflict between liftirrigation users and flow irrigation users now, we are not sure that will continue to be so if the incomplete Babadevi Talav upstream on the river Kharod is completed. We have neither the knowledge nor the inclination to actively participate in running the Society.We don’t bother as long as charges are reasonable."

"It is risky to depend on lift irrigation when most of the farmers go for onions", commented Bharat Bhai of Vania falia (not a member), "For example, in 1988-89 when all of us went for onion cultivation in rabi, the members of the lift irrigation society just didn’t get enough water.Onion requires watering once in 8-10 days.On top of it, because of bumper arrivals of onions in the Valsad market we had to sell our onions @ Rs.30/quintal on average.Even some of us who got 80-100 quintals/acre, after transportation costs and packing costs,got practically nothing out of it."

"We realise the difficulties", commented Shri Shah, "but we do not have direct control over what crop each member farmer wants to grow.After the above experience we have been advising our farmers against putting all their eggs in one basket.But it is difficult to understand and control the cropping pattern of member users".Exhibit 6 is a summary culled out from Daulat Bhai’s register on the cropping patterns, irrigation usage and charges for the past 4 years for the lift irrigation users.Commenting on the appointmentof Daulat Bhai as the secretary, Shri Shah said, "we usually look out for conscientious local talent when we employ site supervisors when we execute lift irrigation projects. Daulat Bhai was one such person who was later appointed as an operator in the neighbouring Pahada village lift irrigation scheme.When the Gonda scheme was set up, we deputed a secretary from an old LI scheme in the first year, and Daulat Bhai was appointed the pump operator as Gonda was nearer to his village than Pahada.In the second year the people promoted Daulat Bhai as the Secretary, both because his image was good and the people wanted an outsider.Subsequently he was elected Sarpanch of Sarkhej.Bansali so far has not looked down upon such office bearers of LI societies getting elected to political offices.Why should we?In fact it gives us support among grass-roots political leadership.But I am not very sure whether there will be positive motivation among such people to discharge responsibilities to our LI societies."

Bhimsen Bhai Rupabhai Ganava ofMedafaliawho was a user from I-stage and a management committee member expressed total ignorance of the basis of fixing charges, either the old one or the new one: "I grew channa last year and paid Rs.340/acre and this year also I grew channa and I have to pay Rs.320/acre.I heard that Phul Sinh, Daulat Bhai and Rangla Bhai Sanghod decided on this year’s charges."

Vala Bhai Gulji Bhai Sanghod and Bula Bhai Rangla Bhai Sanghod were two management committee members from Sanghod falia, one of the farthest falias getting water from the LI scheme. They said, "We are illiterate and so can not really participate in the affairs.

Since our soil is a little deeper compared to other falias we need more water per acre for any crop.We would really like a bigger pipeline from the main chamber."

Realising the importance of the issues, Shri Shah requested Daulat Bhai to persuade as many management committee members of the Gonda Society as possible to attend the regular fortnightly meeting* to discuss issues related to LI societies to be held at the foundation office at Valsadthe next Monday.Daulat Bhai personally requested several of them on Monday morning.It was raining heavily that day and the sowing was in full swing. None of them turned up for the meeting.Still Shri Shah and Daulat Bhai commented:"They could have still come if they wanted to.They are all feeling guilty and afraid that we will ask them what they are doing about overdues from members for irrigation charges.Eventually they will all pay up before the coming rabi season because they will need irrigation.In spite of all their complaints, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, isn’t it?I should confess that the crucial questions still remain unanswered.I feel managing such a community irrigation society of poor is always a constant struggle."

* Bansalihad a practice of holding such fortnightly meetings for the Chairmen and Secretaries oftheirLI schemes to review and discuss issues of common interest.

Exhibit 2: The Gonda Village



I. Total Area


Under agriculture


Under 2nd crop


Non fertile land


Under houses/wells


Potential land for agriculture




Grazing land


Land under rivers, canals, roads etc.


Rocky land


II. Population Distribution Across falia


Falia name*Population (approx)





















Baaria 80



Variya 1300



Chanhan 800



Dhalia 800



Bhuria 900














* The same falia is given different names by different peopleand one major falia might be split into 2 or 3 smaller falias. We tried our best to resolve this, but failed.However, this does not materially change the case situation in any way.


Members of the Management Committee





Phul Sinh Ranjit SinhGanau (Chairman)



Lala Bhai Chuna Bhai Parmar Parmar



Chandiya Bhai Narla Bhai Babor Badwa



Vala Bhai Gulji Bhai Sanghod



Bhula BhaiRangl Bhai Sanghod Sanghod



Bhimsen Bhai Rupa Bhai GanavaMeda



Bhura Bhai Kalicha Bhai MedaMeda



Sakhara Bhai Dala Bhai ParmarParmar



Deva BhaiNana Bhai Parmar Parmar


* Same as in Exhibit 2

Exhibit 4: Balance Sheet (As on 30th June)







Share account




Admission fee




Reserve fund




ccounts payable to Valsad Mandali (for diesel)




Salaries due




Daily wages due




Sundry creditors




Net profits (carried forward)














Bank account




Irrigation charges due from members




Misc. stocks














Exhibit 5: Profit & Loss Account

(in Rs.)











Irrigation charges
















Less Expenses














Daily wages












Travel expenses












Equals net profit