According to reports, although Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s announcement on extending 80 per cent subsidy for 2,000 solar-powered pumpsets has elicited hearty approbation from a number of farmers, they have a lurking fear on its efficacy as well.
Mahadhanapuram V. Rajaram, working president of the Cauvery Delta Farmers’ Welfare Association, is sceptical whether such pumpsets would be able to draw water beyond a depth of 50-60 ft (20 metres at the most). Besides, the quantum of water required for irrigation may not be pumped.
This would be quite useful between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and the quantum being pumped would gradually decline thereafter. And only if this water were to be stored and used, it would be good for irrigation. “Though the State government would bear 80 per cent (Rs. 4 lakh) of the cost of Rs. 5 lakh, even the rest — Rs. 1 lakh — would be possible only for big farmers. “Hence, it will be ideal if the government first grants this subsidy to big farmers on a trial basis and, if it were to succeed, extend it to the small farmers next year,” he said.
Big farmers would be able to use this for drip irrigation or use PVC pipes to let the water into their farm ponds.
At the same time, he was happy to point out that in Karur district alone 64 farmers handed over drafts to the authorities on Thursday for this scheme and “50 more are ready. However, Agriculture Department officials are reluctant to accept them as it would not be possible to accommodate so many,” he said.
V. Duraimanickam, general secretary, Tamil Nadu unit of the All India Kisan Sabha, while welcoming the scheme, wanted this to be extended to more farmers.
Conceding that it would help big farmers more, he appealed to the Chief Minister to enhance the subsidy amount further so that small farmers could avail its benefits. This would protect farmers from frequent and unscheduled power cuts.
“Our association has been for increasing the use of solar power not only in agriculture but also in various domestic uses,” he added.
Rajachidambaram, State general secretary, Tamilaga Vivasayigal Sangam, described the scheme as a “boon” for farmers of delta while it may not be of much use in traditionally water-starved districts such as Perambalur and Ariyalur. “Only those farmers who are confident of the availability of water in their wells or borewells would opt for the scheme,” he added.
He commended the Chief Minister for designing it in such a way that a number of farmers in the delta region would definitely go in for it because the availability of groundwater in the delta region was better than most other areas in the State. “Hence, even if Mettur dam were to be opened for irrigation only couple of months later than the scheduled date — June 12 — farmers would still be able to commence agricultural operations depending on the groundwater.”He is confident that this could prove extremely beneficial even if there are a couple of spells of rain as the water table in most of the areas would go up.
Most important reason for Chief Minister’s decision, according to him, is that she wanted to protect the foodgrain production in the delta region as otherwise the public distribution system would suffer.