Punjab government’s pet agri-reform scheme, Pani Bachao, Paisa Kamao, has been hit by the pandemic badly this year as a 75 per cent decrease has been recorded in the number of new subscribers as compared to the last year. This is the third year of the scheme.
A pilot project of the scheme was launched by the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) in 2018 on six of the state’s 5,900 rural power feeders, which cater to 14.16 lakh tubewells.
The scheme virtually pays farmers for using less power — and hence, water — to irrigate their paddy and wheat crops. The money is transferred into their accounts using the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) method. Data sourced from the PSPCL office showed that till date there are 2,091 subscribers of the scheme.
Since January this year, only 384 new subscribers could register under the scheme, while 1,534 new subscribers were enrolled in 2019.
In the first year under the pilot project, 173 subscribers were enrolled from June 2018 to October 2018 in four months. Going by these figures there is a decrease of 75% in enrollment as compared to last year.
Sources in the department said that due to lockdown for over two months, the availability of the material including electric meters was not possible, and also the staff was not going much in the field.
PSPCL, Director, Commercial, Gopal Sharma said that due to Covid the scheme could not take off well this year as compared to the previous year and now they are going to make up in the coming months. There are a large number of farmers who want to get enrolled in it.
The main objective of the scheme was to motivate farmers to save water when the groundwater level, which is depleting at the rate of 49 cm per year and the extraction of groundwater is 165 per cent of recharge in Punjab. Also, farmers are being motivated to cultivate diversified crops, improve the efficiency in water usage for paddy crop, and to bring transparency in subsidy disbursal.
Under the scheme, individual electricity meter is installed on the tubewell of the subscriber (farmer) and the number of units per month is fixed for every month for both Kharif and Rabi Season. These units are fixed as per the capacity of the motor of the tubewell. If the farmers save units from the fixed quota they get subsidy for every saved unit at the rate of Rs 4 per unit.
During the first year in Kharif season, 173 saved around 1.75 lakh units of power and received about Rs 7 lakh. In Rabi and summer seasons from October 2018 to June 20, 2019, farmers saved 2.17 lakh units and earned Rs 8.69 lakh. Then, in the last Kharif season in the first two months, from June 21 to August 20, 2019, they saved 2.06 lakh units and earned incentives totaling Rs 8.24 lakh.
From August to December in 2019, farmers saved around 6.55 lakh units worth over Rs 26 lakh. In 2020, total power saving done by all the farmer beneficiaries, registered between 2018 and 2020, was around 9.68 lakh units worth Rs 38.74 lakh.
While in 2019, Rs 29.44 lakh subsidy was paid and Rs 5.05 lakh is pending, in 2020, Rs 9.91 lakh was paid as subsidy and Rs 28.82 lakh is still pending.
Director Sharma informed that that pending subsidy payments were due to incorrect bank details provided by the farmers.
The state government, meanwhile, has extended the number of feeders on which the scheme is available now.
“It is a huge agricultural reform and the state like Punjab can gain a lot in long run from it and we have been trying to make it a big success in state,” said A Venu Prasad, Chairman and Managing Director, PSPCL.