New Delhi: The Planning Commission on 18 September suggested providing cash compensation to farmers for payment of electricity bills instead of the current system of subsidy to curtail power consumption that would help check water exploitation.
Releasing the report of the Expert Group on Ground Water Management and Ownership, Member Planning Commission Kirit Parikh pointed out that such a mechanism would prevent over-exploitation of groundwater, especially in those areas where the recharge was low, without increasing the subsidy burden that was as high as Rs30,000 crore in 2001-02.
As per the proposed scheme, farmers could be assigned an amount based on a fixed number of power units. For example, farmers can be given Rs6,000 at Rs2 per unit for use of 3,000 units of electricity, the report said.
“The total charges can be deducted from the given amount and the surplus may be handed over to the farming community at year end,” Parikh said.
The report also suggested separation of agriculture pump from household pumps, besides using advanced tools like geographical information system and remote sensing equipment for groundwater management.
The country need to involve Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) to ensure efficient use of groundwater, Parikh said, pointing out that six lakh PRIs should manage the groundwater utilisation and ensure their recharge during monsoons.
In reply to a query whether groundwater was being overexploited by multinationals like Coca Cola and others, the plan panel member said bulk of the critical resource was being used in the agriculture sector and added that PRIs should be empowered to deal with the issues concerning allocation of water to the users.
Parikh further said that companies may be allowed to extract the groundwater in accordance with the size of their land holdings.
The report suggested that power subsidy be replaced by cash compensation on the basis of benchmarked land holdings. The measure, on one hand, will help streamlining sickening power sector and also provide cash relief to poor farmers.
The group also favoured central intervention when groundwater level deplete below the replenishable level.