Chandigarh, February 5: With an aim to help the state in promoting crop diversification, saving of precious groundwater, the Punjab government has launched the Pilot Project on Direct Benefit Transfer for Electricity (DBTE) for agriculture consumers.
Notably, the state cabinet under the leadership of CM Captain Amarinder Singh had approved the pilot project on Direct Benefit Transfer for Electricity (DBTE). The implementation of the DBTE scheme would help the state in promoting crop diversification, saving of precious groundwater, accurate energy accounting resulting in a rationalization of subsidy, checking Transmission & Distribution (T&D) losses, besides curbing of wasteful energy consumption.
Under the pilot project, the beneficiary farmers would be paid subsidy in cash, based on a cost of power for irrigating the crops as finalized by Punjab Agriculture University, along with Agriculture and Water Resources departments. The farmers would be issued bills for electricity and allowed to retain the savings i.e. subsidy minus the bill amount.
If successful, the project would be followed by a randomized evaluation to measure the benefits of DBTE for agriculture consumers in terms of conservation of power and groundwater. The Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) has tied up with J-PAL South Asia and the World Bank to evaluate DBTE for agriculture consumers on six feeders with 990 AP connections.
Underlining the importance of the project in view of the grave problem of depleting groundwater table in the state, CM Captain Amarinder Singh explained that under the scheme, farmers will be paid money, in advance, directly into their bank account, from which they can pay their electricity bills. Whatever they save will go into their pockets, he said, adding that the move was aimed at encouraging farmers to save groundwater by minimizing its use.
If the groundwater crisis is not addressed on priority, Punjab would face turbulent times ahead, the Chief Minister warned, adding that the DBTE would lead to a win-win situation for both, the government and the farmers.
Elaborating further, the Chief Minister said that under the scheme, therefore, if a farmer is consuming electricity worth Rs 50,000 in a year, he would be paid that amount directly. If he manages to save on his electricity bill through prudent consumption, the money he thus saves will go into his pocket.
The idea behind this is not to save electricity, which is surplus, but to save the precious groundwater resource, which is on the brink of annihilation, said Captain Amarinder, adding that when farmers discover that the money they save is theirs, to use as they wish, they would be motivated to use electricity judiciously.
The Chief Minister also rejected charges of forcible imposition of the scheme, saying no farmer was being forced into joining the pilot project, being launched in a very limited area. The benefits of the scheme are being explained to the farmers, who were voluntarily coming forward to participate in the pilot in their own interest, he added.