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

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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

Farm Power Policies and Groundwater Markets

With India emerging as the world’s largest groundwater irrigator, marginal farmers and tenants in many parts have come to depend on informal water markets for irrigation. Power subsidies have grown these markets and made them pro-poor, but are also responsible for groundwater depletion, and for financial troubles of electricity distribution companies of India or DISCOMs. Gujarat has successfully reduced subsidies by rationing farm power supply, and West Bengal has done so by charging farmers commercial power tariff on metered consumption. Subsidy reforms have hit poor farmers and tenants hard in both the states. Gujarat has tried to support the poor, with some success, by prioritising them in allocating new tube well connections. We argue that West Bengal too can support its poor by tweaking its farm power pricing formula to turn a sellers’ water market into a buyers’ one.

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.

Har Khet Ko Pani?

The Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana programme should concentrate on two low-hanging fruits. First, it should quickly put to use 20-40 million ha of unutilised irrigation potential created in major, medium and minor irrigation projects. Second, it should provide better quality power rations to farmers during the time of peak irrigation demand. Madhya Pradesh has done precisely this and multiplied the state's irrigated area quickly, at small incremental cost, delivering double-digit agricultural growth.

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.

Karnataka's Smart, New Solar Pump Policy for Irrigation

The runaway growth in states of subsidised solar pumps, which provide quality energy at near-zero marginal cost, can pose a bigger threat of groundwater over-exploitation than free power has done so far. The best way to meet this threat is by paying farmers to "grow" solar power as a remunerative cash crop. Doing so can reduce pressure on aquifers, cut the subsidy burden on electricity companies, reduce the carbon footprint of agriculture and improve farm incomes. Karnataka's new Surya Raitha policy has ken a small step in this direction.

Generating Agrarian Dynamism

Agrarian stagnation was much the same in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat and the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra until 1990, and for similar reasons. Since then, Saurashtra's agriculture has been growing, especially after 2000, at an accelerated pace, while Vidarbha's farmers have continued to stagnate. This paper interrogates why, and suggests some measures to jump-start agricultural growth in Vidarbha.

Solar Irrigation Pumps

Price of solar panels has declined rapidly. Encouraged by increasing affordability of the technology and its promise to curb the demand for subsidised electricity, state governments in India are aggressively promoting solar irrigation pumps. Rajasthan became the pioneer by announcing a scheme in 2011 with 86% subsidy to horticulture farmers who used drip irrigation and farm ponds. Based on extensive fieldwork and survey in three districts of Rajasthan, this paper looks at the farmers' experiences, the design and implementation of the policy, and makes recommendations for a faster and more equitable diffusion of the technology, which could attack India's invidious nexus between energy and groundwater irrigation, and change it for the better.

Major Insights from India's Minor Irrigation Censuses: 1986-87 to 2006-07

Based on data from the four minor irrigation censuses conducted by the Ministry of Water Resources between 1986-87 and 2006-07, this paper points out that India's groundwater sector has slowed down since 2000-01, most markedly in eastern India. It examines the reasons for this and also looks into how farmers have been responding to lowered groundwater tables. Besides identifying some factors that have not changed since the mid-1980s, it emphasises that there are wide regional variations in the country's groundwater economy and management strategies need to be crafted accordingly.

Ancient Small-Tank Irrigation in Sri Lanka

This paper shows that winds of change are blowing in the dry zones of north-central Sri Lanka, the original hydraulic civilisation of the world. The social organisation of tank irrigation - which for centuries had combined a stylised land-use pattern, a system of highly differentiated property rights, and elaborate rules of community management of tank irrigation - has now been morphing in response to demographic pressures, market signals, technical change and modernisation. What are the lessons for south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa?

Remembering Verghese Kurien

Verghese Kurien, who passed away recently, will be best known for building Amul into one of India's most valuable brands which is an organisation of nearly three million smallholder dairy producers and a Rs 12,000 crore farmer-owned business. He will also be remembered for creating the National Dairy Development Board which replicated Amul's complex institutional modelacross India.

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