With diesel prices skyrocketing, farmers in parts of Maharashtra are struggling to irrigate their crops using diesel-run pumps. Solar water pumps are an affordable and environment friendly option, but securing them is no easy task for the farmers.

The Union government has sanctioned 1 lakh solar pumps to Maharashtra under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (PM-KUSUM) scheme. However, the State implementing agency has installed only 1,484 pumps until last month. The situation is no different in other states either.  

Countrywide, of the 3.59 lakh standalone solar water pumps sanctioned under PM-KUSUM, 82,408 or 23 per cent have been installed so far, as per government data.  

Lack of awareness, role of middlemen, and the requirement that farmers must pay 40 per cent of the pump cost are being cited as the reasons for the tardy progress.

Scheme contours

In February 2019, PM-KUSUM was launched as a means to provide energy and water security to farmers, enhance their income, and cut diesel use to reduce environmental pollution. 

The switch to solar from diesel pumps is expected to reduce irrigation cost by around ₹50,000 per year (for a 5 hp pump). Around 20 lakh farmers who lack electric power in off-grid areas will also benefit.

Slow progress 

The New and Renewable Energy Ministry data shows that Maharashtra was sanctioned the highest number of solar pumps but it has installed only 1 per cent of them. Rajasthan received 65,000 solar pumps and installed 24,937 ( 38 per cent), while Madhya Pradesh installed 7,234 (13 per cent) of the 57,000 solar pumps allocated to it. 

Haryana, Jharkhand, and Punjab lead in installations — 25,534 (69 per cent) out of 37,000 sanctioned solar pumps; 6,717 ( 61 per cent) out of 11,000; and 6,192 (52 per cent) out of 12,000 sanctioned pumps, respectively. 

Chhattisgarh, which has been sanctioned 20,000 pumps, is among seven states that have not installed a single solar pump under PM-KUSUM.  

Hurdles in execution 

According to information provided to the Lok Sabha by the Ministry, a central financial assistance of 30 per cent of the benchmark cost or price discovered through tender, whichever is lower, is provided for solar pump installations under PM-KUSUM. Another 30 per cent is provided by the respective State, with the rest borne by the farmer. The scheme is demand-driven and there are no fixed targets for the states. 

“The government schemes remain on paper and we have to depend on middlemen to get the benefits of the scheme. The majority of farmers are not even aware of solar schemes by the Union and State governments,” says Ranjana Doifode, a farmer from Osmanabad district.