The BJP-led Maharashtra government’s ambitious scheme of installing five lakh solar agricultural pumps across the state, a pet initiative of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, has got off to a slow start with few farmers showing interest in the scheme.
While the government has given a contract for at least 10,000 solar pumps to be installed in the pilot phase, only 6,500 farmers have applied to the government agreeing put up solar pumps in their farms and benefit from the scheme.
“Of those who have applied, only about 600 farmers have deposited money with the state government for installation of these pumps till now. We will start the first few installations this month. Meanwhile, we are hoping to get more applications for which we are planning to relax eligibility norms,” a senior official from the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd (MSEDCL) said, adding that most of the applications are from Vidarbha.
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Under the state government’s scheme, beneficiaries are supposed to get solar pumps at a highly subsidised rate and will have to pay just 5 per cent of the pump’s total cost.
One solar pumps cost between Rs 3 and Rs 5 lakh, depending on the horse power. The state government will chip in another 5 per cent, while the Union government will provide a subsidy of 30 per cent. The rest will be raised as debt, which the state will pay.
While the government has received applications from across 20 districts in the state, priority is being given to six districts facing the worst agrarian crises and the highest numbers of farmer suicides.
However, to avail of the scheme, a farmer has to have a landholding smaller than five acres.
“The intention was to ensure that the poorest sections of the society benefit from this scheme since the government is providing such a huge subsidy,” a MSEDCL official said.
Following the dismal response, the government is now looking at relaxing this to a maximum landholding of 10 acres to include more farmers under the scheme.
Officials said the scheme has drawn a poor response also because many farmers are not even willing to shell out 5 per cent of the amount.
Besides benefitting farmers, the government rolled out the scheme also to lower industrial power tariffs in the state with industrial units currently paying hefty rates to cross subsidize energy for farmers.