Farmers in Punjab are a worried lot as the state government has not offered them a voluntary disclosure scheme (VDS) this year to declare the increased electricity load on their tubewells.
Farmers resorting to increased load without the permission of the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) are liable to be penalised. Unlike the previous years, the state government has not offered them a VDS this year.
As per an estimate, 40% of the total agriculture tubewells go defunct every year due to fall in sub-soil water level and the farmers have to dig deeper and instal machinery of bigger capacity to pull out water.
In 2006, the average power of the machinery over tubewell was 5 BHP (brake horse power), which now has increased to 12.5 to 15 BHP.
“I am getting several calls every day from the farmers seeking help. In case their load is not regularised, they have to pay heavy penalties to get their power loads sanctioned,” said Balbir Singh Rajewal, president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Rajewal), while talking to HT.
A delegation of farmers, led by Rajewal, had called on Punjab CM on November 13 to take up the matter. “The CM then assured us that the government will come up with a VDS in just a few days, but a month has passed and we are still waiting,” he said.
- 55-cm groundwater depletion in Punjab in 2015
- 2-metre annual drop in water table in some pockets
- 110 blocks in state rated as over-exploited
- Over 13 lakh tubewells operating in state
- Three-fourths of state dependent on groundwater for irrigation, one-fourth on canal water
- In 22 blocks of southwest Punjab, underground water not fit for human consumption or irrigation
When contacted, PSPCL chairman-cum- managing director KD Chaudhari said the corporation has sent a petition for VDS to the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC) in March this year, but a decision is still awaited. Senior PSERC officials, on the other hand, feigned ignorance about any such petition from the PSPCL.
As per information gathered by HT from the field, when a raiding team checks a tubewell using more power than the sanctioned load, penalties up to `50,000 are imposed, farmers are booked for theft and they even have to secure bail to avoid arrest.
About 70% of agriculture in Punjab is dependent on subsoil water, which is receding at a fast pace. Water is now available at a depth varying from 80 ft to 200 ft. At some farms in Ropar and Nawanshahr districts, the water table has gone down to even lower than 220 feet.