Sanavver Shafi | Feb 1 | 7 min read
Power supply is erratic and provided in two shifts, including in the middle of the night, but those with PM-KUSUM solar connections can draw water all day long and get restful sleep at night
Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh: Staying awake the whole night to water his agricultural land is a thing of the past for Gangaram Vishvkarma of Aamkheda in Raisen district. Thanks to the installation of a 2 HP solar pump under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (PM-KUSUM), he no longer has to rely on the erratic power supply to irrigate his three-acre field.
The ease of work was particularly evident in recent days when the mercury dipped to below 10 degree Celsius in Madhya Pradesh. While Gangaram could curl up with a warm quilt, the less fortunate like Ramesh Singh of Pachair in Rajgarh district stayed out in the cold.
“Whether it is summer or winter, day or night, we have to irrigate our crops and look after them like our children. If the crop is good, the yield will also be good, and the family will be happy. If you fall ill, you can take medicines. But if the crop fails, nothing will be left of us,” says Ramesh, who grows wheat on his 20 bighas where second irrigation is presently on.
Electricity is provided in shifts during the day and night, but Ramesh is constantly worried about disruptions in service. “Earlier, fertiliser shortage was keeping us on our toes. Now, irregular power supply gives us sleepless nights,” he says.
Farmer Pratap Singh adds that the power supply in rural areas is quite nominal during the day. “As a result, when electricity is available at night, water is drawn incessantly from all the tubewells. The government makes many promises, but does not implement even one properly.”
Madhya Pradesh government has promised 10 hours of electricity for irrigation, but farmers say they get supply only for three hours as per the schedule issued by the electricity department. In November, a group of farmers held protests against power disruptions, and had sought a change in the supply schedule.
Jawahar Singh of Khajuri Kala village in Bhopal district says erratic power supply and non-availability of manure/fertilisers are common problems they face every year. “We have held sit-in protests at the Collectorate and blocked roads, but our problems remain the same. This is in our destiny,” he laments.
Districts in the Bhopal division — Bhopal, Raisen, Sehore, Vidisha and Rajgarh — get electricity from the Madhya Pradesh Madhya Kshetra Vidyut Vitaran Company Limited.
Its Public Relations Officer Manoj Dwivedi tells 101Reporters that the government's intention is to provide 10-hour powersupply for irrigation, but the demand has increased from 444 MW to a maximum of 3,551 MW during the rabi season in 16 districts of the company's Bhopal, Gwalior, Narmadapuram and Chambal divisions. He adds that 8,642 temporary irrigation pump connections have been issued in view of the cropping cycle.
On the measures taken to ensure uninterrupted and quality power supply, he says a timetable has been issued, whereby electricity is provided in two batches. For example, in Bhopal division, the first group gets power from 11.30 pm to 3.30 am and from 3.30 pm to 9.30 pm, while the second group has a 3.30-7.30 am and 5.30-11.30 pm schedule.
Kuber Singh Rajput, who has wheat and gram on his 10 bighas of land, questions the rationale behind the supply schedule. “In this cold weather, the government should take steps to provide electricity the whole day. If cities can have 24-hour uninterrupted power supply, why not villages? Why is the government adopting a step-motherly attitude?”
A ray of hope
Vinod Vishvkarma from Aamkheda is all praise for the solar pump installed under the PM-KUSUM. “Water is drawn from my tubewell the whole day. By going solar, I also got rid of the electricity bill (approx. Rs 2,600/month for a 5 HP pump). After deducting the central and state subsidies that come to 30% each, we got the 2 HP pump costing Rs 1.44 lakh for around Rs 57,000,” says Vinod, who has three acres of land under cultivation.
Vidisha farmers Umesh Rajput and Dinesh Rajput are very happy about the solar pump installed for their 10 bighas of land. Similarly, Gopal Singh Yadav of Pachair says he never faced a problem in irrigating his fields for the last one-and-a-half years, after the installation of a 5 HP solar pump. Unlike in the past, the fear of crop loss does not worry him either.
Pointing to his solar pump, Suresh Yadav of Kolukhedi in Bhopal district says it has helped him save money and get sleep at night though it is time for critical watering of rabi wheat. “For wheat crop to yield 18 to 20 quintals per acre, watering in six stages is a must. The first one (20-25 days after sowing) is done at the time of taproot formation. If irrigation is improper at this stage, chances of crop damage are high,” he says.
The second watering stage is during bud formation (40-45 days), third at 65-70 days, fourth at the time of flowering (90-95 days), fifth at the time of milking (105-110 days) and the last when the grain gets hard (120-125 days). During every stage, water and electricity worth a total of Rs 1,000 needs to be spent for a week’s time.
Sitting at home, one can operate the irrigation pump installed in the field using a mobile app. However, the system is not foolproof. “GPS is needed for its operation. The solar pump company’s remote app is installed on my phone. In the pump, there is an option to install a mobile SIM, which should be recharged monthly. Though it is a good facility, I have noticed some glitches in its functioning. Many times, the pump starts almost 10 minutes after it is switched on using the mobile. Other times, it does not function as the server goes down,” informs Vinod.
Late delivery of pumps
In some places, farmers are vexed by the late arrival of solar pumps even after getting the necessary approval. For instance, Khajuri Kala resident Bhagwan Singh had applied online for 5 HP-DC submersible solar pump online in 2019 by paying a fee of Rs 5,000 through the CM Solar Pump Scheme website.
“After a while, I also received communication from Madhya Pradesh Urja Vikas Nigam Limited regarding my pump’s approval. But till date, I have not received it. However, every 15 to 20 days, I get a message on my mobile phone informing about the approval, and directing me to deposit the post-subsidy 40% of the total cost. This has been happening for the last six months, but the option/link to make payment is not available,” he complains.
Farmers Jitendra Singh, Samat Singh, Bhujwal Singh, Laxman Singh and Jawahar Singh of Khajuri Kala face the same problem.
Shivkumar Sharma, a resident of Machhera Khurd village near Bankhedi in Hoshangabad district and president of Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Mahasangh, says the demand for solar pumps is quite high due to the subsidy component.
“As farmers are applying in large numbers, MPUVNL is unable to process things faster, which leads to years of wait. Also, there is no system in place to prioritise applications based on the date they were received. As a result, an applicant from the year 2019 still waits for the pump, while another who did so in 2020 has already received it,” he says.
The cover image is of the solar panel being cleaned in Suresh Yadav's field in Kolukhedi village in Bhopal district. Clicked by Sanavver Shafi
Edited by Rekha Pulinnoli
More stories published under