When farmers across the region were facing an acute shortage of electricity and struggling to irrigate their crop using tubewell pumps due to the absence of rains, there were some farmers who were enjoying uninterrupted water supply through the day. No, it's no case of favouritism; just plain forward thinking, and solar-powered pumps.
Maninder Jit Singh Machhian is one such farmer who has been using a photovoltaic pump for the past 10 years: "I use this solar pump to irrigate two acres of my paddy crop. I just switch on the pump in the morning when irrigation is required and it just keeps on irrigating till evening. I have never had any problem with the solar pump since I installed it."
Singh bought the pump 10 years ago for Rs 50,000 from the Punjab Energy Development Authority (PEDA) on subsidised rates under a government-funded scheme. According to Singh, the pump is performing exceptionally well because water level in his fields is at a relatively shallow 20 feet, because his fields are very close to the river Sutlej.
Anupam Nanda, senior manager, PEDA, said, "Photovoltaic pumps work extremely well in the fields closer to a river and where water level is around 35-40 feet deep. There was a subsidy of around 80% on these pumps till the year 2000." Across Punjab, around 2,000 such solar pumps were installed till that year, but after that, as the subsidy lapsed, farmers showed no interest.
These pumps, according to Nanda, can provide a more reliable option for the farmers in a power-deficient state like Punjab where farmers hardly get the promised eight hours of electricity. It may also save a lot of government revenue that goes into providing free electricity to the farmers. But in the absence of any subsidy, the pumps cost around Rs 3 lakh. That's the chief dampener.