Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security; Technology missions; economics of animal-rearing.
Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan
What to study?
For Prelims: Key features and significance of the project.
For Mains: Significance of the scheme, solar power potential of India, challenges therein and legislative measures needed.
Context: The Centre’s new Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (PM-Kusum) scheme is not a “silver bullet” to overcome challenges of irrigation supply, subsidy burden on discoms and farmer distress, according to a report from Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a Delhi-based non-profit.
Concerns and challenges (findings of the report):
- The scheme might result in over-exploitation of groundwater, according to CSE.
- It may also not help reduce discoms’ subsidy burden because the installation of pumps is not mandatorily tied to decrease in subsidised agricultural power supply.
- The subsidised solar pumps are being installed without accompanying cuts in agricultural supply or a reduction in subsidy. The result may, therefore, be an increase in total subsidy burden on states.
- While, the solarisation of agricultural feeders and on-grid solar pumps are economically superior to off-grid pumps, as excess electricity can be injected into the grid, they do not specify measures to limit water use.
- The scheme of installing solar plants on farm land will benefit only the wealthy farmers, as it requires large investment or the ability to lease land for 25 years.
The CSE report recommends:
- Solar pump schemes should accompany explicit and strict measures of monitoring and control to manage groundwater extraction. Funds for solar pump schemes should be extended only to states willing to take such measures.
- Solarisation of feeders may be the most economical solution, but needs to be accompanied by gradual increase in agricultural tariffs and limits on hours of power supply.
- On-grid pumps are an alternative for water-scarce regions with high farmer distress, but adequate and one-way power flow (as opposed to net meter) is necessary to limit water withdrawal.
- Off-grid pumps should be considered only in exceptional cases, for unelectrified regions with relatively high water-table, and utilisation should be increased through a mini-grid model in which excess electricity can be used in households or for other economic uses.
- Clear targets must be set to provide solar pumps to small and marginal farmers. Providing access to financing is a crucial support needed by this segment.
- Efficient discom operations should be ensured by regulatory mandates for regular reporting on installations, operations, evacuation, billing and payment to farmers.
About KUSUM scheme:
What is it? It is a ₹1.4 lakh-crore scheme for promoting decentralised solar power production of up to 28,250 MW to help farmers.
Benefits: It would provide extra income to farmers, by giving them an option to sell additional power to the grid through solar power projects set up on their barren lands. It would help in de-dieselising the sector as also the DISCOMS.
Components of the scheme: The components of the scheme include building 10,000 MW solar plants on barren lands and providing sops to DISCOMS to purchase the electricity produced, ‘solarising’ existing pumps of 7250 MW as well as government tube wells with a capacity of 8250 MW and distributing 17.5 lakh solar pumps. The 60% subsidy on the solar pumps provided to farmers will be shared between the Centre and the States while 30% would be provided through bank loans. The balance cost has to be borne by the farmers.
Significance of the scheme: Expected positive outcomes of the scheme include promotion of decentralised solar power production, reduction of transmission losses as well as providing support to the financial health of DISCOMs by reducing the subsidy burden to the agriculture sector. The scheme would also promote energy efficiency and water conservation and provide water security to farmers.
The proposed scheme provides for:
- Setting up of grid-connected renewable power plants each of 500KW to 2 MW in the rural area.
- Installation of standalone off-grid solar water pumps to fulfil irrigation needs of farmers not connected to grid.
- Solarization of existing grid-connected agriculture pumps to make farmers independent of grid supply and also sell surplus solar power generated to Discom and get extra income.
Sources: Down to earth.