With diesel prices skyrocketing farmers struggle to irrigate crops, Solar pumps best option.
Farmers in Maharashtra are struggling to irrigate their crops with diesel-powered pumps due to rising diesel prices. Solar water pumps are a cost-effective and environmentally friendly option, but farmers must secure them.
Under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (PM-KUSUM) project, the Union government has allocated 1 lakh solar pumps to Maharashtra. However, until last month, the State’s implementing agency had only erected 1,484 pumps. The scenario is similar in other states as well.
According to government data, 82,408 or 23% of the 3.59 lakh standalone solar water pumps sanctioned under PM-KUSUM have been installed so far.
The reasons for the slow progress have been attributed to a lack of awareness, the role of middlemen, and the requirement that farmers pay 40% of the pump cost.
Contours of the plan
PM-KUSUM was launched in February 2019 as a way to provide farmers with energy and water security, increase their income, and reduce diesel use to reduce pollution.
The switch from diesel to solar pumps is expected to save around ₹50,000 per year in irrigation costs (for a 5 hp pump). Around 20 lakh farmers in off-grid areas who do not have access to electricity will benefit as well.
Slow progress is being made
According to data from the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Maharashtra was given the most solar pumps, but only 1% of them have been installed. Rajasthan received 65,000 solar pumps and installed 24,937 (38%) of them, while Madhya Pradesh received 57,000 solar pumps and installed 7,234 (13%) of them.
Haryana, Jharkhand, and Punjab have the most solar pumps installed, with 25,534 (69%) out of 37,000, 6,717 (61%) out of 11,000, and 6,192 (52%) out of 12,000 sanctioned pumps, respectively.
Despite receiving 20,000 pumps, Chhattisgarh is one of seven states that have yet to install a single solar pump under PM-KUSUM. Also Read | Govt signals green for subsidised loans of Rs 3,971.31 cr for micro-irrigation expansion.
Obstacles in the execution
According to the information given to the Lok Sabha by the Ministry, solar pump installations are eligible for central financial assistance of 30% of the benchmark cost or price discovered through tender, whichever is lower, under PM-KUSUM. The state contributes another 30%, with the farmer bearing the remaining costs. There are no fixed targets for the states, and the scheme is demand-driven.
‘Government schemes are only on paper, and we have to rely on middlemen to benefit from them. The majority of farmers are unaware of the Union and State governments’ solar schemes,’ says Ranjana Doifode, a farmer in the Osmanabad district.