ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Articles By Tushaar Shah

Karnataka’s ‘Surya Raitha’ Experiment

Solar-powered irrigation has expanded in India at an unprecedented pace—the number of solar irrigation pumps—from less than 4,000 in 2012 to more than 2,50,000 by 2019. It has been argued that besides giving farmers an additional and reliable source of income, grid-connected SIPs also incentivise efficient energy and water use—critical for sustaining groundwater irrigation. The Surya Raitha scheme was the country’s first, state-driven initiative for solarisation of agriculture feeders by replacing subsidy-guzzling, inefficient electric pumps with energy-efficient, net-metered SIPs. An early appraisal of Surya Raitha lauded the scheme as a smart initiative and argued that it could set an example for promoting solar power as a remunerative crop. However, the scheme was eventually executed as a single feeder pilot with some design changes in Nalahalli panchayat from 2015–18. The authors visited the pilot in 2017–18 and 2018–19 to assess if it had delivered the promises of Surya Raitha scheme. The results are a mixed bag and offer important lessons for implementation and scaling out of component C of the Government of India’s Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan policy.

 

Unlocking Fortune at the Bottom of India’s Gobar Pyramid

A 2014 International Labour Organization study claimed that India can create millions of rural jobs by raising the value of gobar (manure) from the present `0.15–`0.30 per kg wet weight to `1.50–`2.00 per kg. This would benefit millions of landless and marginal dairy farmers who make a meagre income from gobar. Biogas technology is the answer, but its reach in rural India is insignificant. India’s biogas programme needs to make a quantum leap through initiatives that pilot new business models for village-scale plants with the support of dairy cooperatives. It needs to maximise the energy as well as nutrient value that can be derived from gobar, overcome farmers’ loss aversion by monetising benefits and costs, and incentivise the installation of biogas plants and optimise their operating performance.

 

Cleaning the Ganga

Prioritising aviral dhara (uninterrupted flow) over nirmal dhara (unpolluted flow) can deliver quick outcomes in the Namami Gange Programme. Treating human, municipal and industrial waste released into the Ganga is a long-term project requiring vast resources and political energy, besides behavioural change on a mass scale. But, Ganga’s dry season flows can be quickly improved by basin-scale conjunctive management of the surface water and groundwater. Irrigation in the Ganga basin today depends on tubewells far more than canals. A multipronged protocol is outlined to manage the old canal network and new hydropower storages in order to maximise irrigation benefits and improve dry season river flows.

Solar Irrigation Pumps and India’s Energy–Irrigation Nexus

A response by the co-authors of the article “Promoting Solar Power as a Remunerative Crop” (EPW, 11 November 2017), to Meera Sahasranaman et al’s discussion article “Solar Irrigation Cooperatives: Creating the Frankenstein’s Monster for India’s Groundwater” (EPW, 26 May 2018), enables a proper assessment of the Dhundi experiment and reiterates the critical role that solar irrigation pumps can play in India’s agricultural future.

Kick-starting the Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan

The Union Budget 2018 announced the Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan, a scheme to replace diesel pumps and grid-connected electric tube wells for irrigation with solar irrigation pumps, including a buy-back arrangement for farmers’ surplus solar energy at a remunerative price. KUSUM can be a game changer as it can check groundwater over-exploitation, offer farmers uninterrupted daytime power supply, reduce the carbon footprint of agriculture, curtail the farm power subsidy burden, and provide a new source of risk-free income for farmers.

Promoting Solar Power as a Remunerative Crop

Anand, the Gujarat town that gave India its dairy cooperative movement, has now spawned in Dhundi village the world’s first solar cooperative that produces Solar Power as a Remunerative Crop. When compared to other models promoting solar irrigation in the country, the SPaRC model, which has successfully completed one year in Dhundi, offers multiple benefits across-the-board: it will control groundwater overexploitation, reduce the subsidy burden on DISCOMs, curtail carbon footprint of agriculture, and help double farmer incomes

Farmer Producer Companies

India's track record of forming robust, self-sustaining farmer cooperatives has been poor ever since the early 1900s when the movement began. For long, restrictive laws were blamed for their failure. But most of the 2,000 farmer producer companies registered under a new amendment to the Companies Act 1956 appear like old wine in a new bottle. This article explores why, and argues for the need to focus on the logic and process of promoting new farmer cooperatives to improve their success rate.

Vasudhara Adivasi Dairy Cooperative

India's White Revolution has made the country the largest milk producer in the world, but this has bypassed the Adivasi heartland of the central Indian plateau. The Vasudhara cooperative, which has organised 1,20,000 mostly Adivasi women from Valsad, Navsari, Dang and Dhule districts into a Rs 1,000-crore dairy business, provides a model for India's second White Revolution designed to empower Adivasi women.