water will be provided to farmers. An induced scarcity will be maintained by supplying water volumetrically on a rotational basis, so that extensive use of irrigation is made and profligacy minimized. The authorities fondly hope that farmers will be persuaded to grow "...crops ... which consume less water, but are comparatively more remunerative." (Patel 1991:76) What is much more likely is that farmers will grow cash crops that require a lot of water, and resist efforts to enforce cropping patterns by centralized regulation of canal flow. This could upset the estimates of water demand which are based on projected cropping patterns, and lead to decreased availability in the tail-end reaches of the system.
In addition, the SSP plans to supply water to farmers' irrigation cooperatives instead of individuals, on a volumetric basis, for which farmers will pay per litre. These irrigation cooperatives will arrange for rate payment, will line canals beyond the minors, will carry out groundwater pumping when required, will maintain the drainage systems at the micro level. However, the decision to supply water to them will still be taken by a central authority. This "revolutionary" system is exactly what irrigation experts have been recommending. Unfortunately, no such irrigation control system is in place in India, even on a pilot scale: How is it supposed to work over 1.8 million ha? And, regrettably, the entire success of the project is dependent on these blithe assumptions that defy ground realities.
Work on Indian irrigation by Chambers, Wade and others has shown that decentralised systems are much more efficient. While the SSP commendably seeks to decentralize the irrigation system, there has been absolutely no degree of participation of the beneficiaries in plan formulation. The government has not bothered to ask the potential users of irrigation to ascertain whether this cooperative structure is at all feasible. Besides, there has been no thought given to the administrative, logistical and financial costs of setting up and running thousands of irrigation cooperatives, ensuring that elections are held regularly and conducted fairly, proper accounts are maintained, that the rich and powerful do not grab all the water : a nightmare for any person who has ever worked as an irrigation specialist at the micro level. Besides, cooperatives cannot be formed 'on demand'. While the government can force cooperatives to be formed, it cannot force people to cooperate.
Under such conditions, how politically feasible would it be to supply water on a rotational basis and on the basis of land holding, without giving in to popular demands? Once the farmers of central Gujarat receive the surplus