There is political will and support for participatory irrigation management and for handing over of the management rights to the WUAs. This had led to rapid progress in forming the WUAs, conducting elections and in imparting training to the office bearers.
There is a core group of senior officials in the Irrigation Department who are convinced about the need for this transfer. This group is responsive to the demands of the newly formed WUAs.
The officers who are to participate in the initiative to hand over management have been chosen with care. Thus, 120 officers have been chosen from about 5000, based on their performance track record.
A massive awareness raising programme has been initiated amonst the WUA members.
Initially it is the big, powerful and more articulate farmers who are seen to come forward in the WUAs. A concerted effort has to be made to ensure that the tailenders and small farmers find a voice in the decision making bodies. This will be a critical element in determining whether any real change takes place after the transfer to the farmers organization - the WUAs - or whether the net result is that the Irrigation Department officials are displaced by the bigger farmers.
After four years, the process of participation in Madhya Pradesh has not reached member farmers in an adequate way and is largely limited to the presidents of the WUAs. Decisions are not broad based and responsibilities are concentrated in the hands of very few individuals. There continues to be a lack of sense of ownership over the system, amongst the general farmers. If this continues, the efficiency of the system will fail to improve and the possibility of overcoming the weaknesses of the centralized management will be low.
No role whatsoever has been envisaged for women in the management.
The junior hierarchy of the irrigation department has not awakened to the new role for handover. Attitudinal changes and acquisition of participatory skills is required.
The take over of the management of the irrigation system is largely a government led initiative so far. It needs to be transformed into a people led movement.