KUSUM aims to provide energy sufficiency and sustainable irrigation access to farmers. How far has it been successful in achieving its objectives? Critically analyse.

With a Budget allocation of Rs. 34,000 crore, and a similar contribution expected from the States, KUSUM aims to provide energy sufficiency and sustainable irrigation access to farmers. It is also essential to achieve the country’s 100 GW solar target by 2022.

Following are the three components of the scheme:
1. 10,000 MW of de-centralised ground- mounted grid-connected renewable power plants. 
2. Installation of 17.50 lakh standalone solar powered agricultural pumps.
3. Solarisation of 10 lakh grid-connected solar-powered agricultural pumps

It been successful in achieving its objectives which are as follows-
 The farmer will be able to use the generated energy to meet the irrigation needs and the excess available energy will be sold to DISCOM.
 This will help to create an avenue for extra income to the farmers, and for the States to meet their RPO targets.
 The Scheme will have substantial environmental impact in terms of savings of CO2 emissions. All three components of the Scheme combined together are likely to result in saving of about 27 million tonnes of CO2 emission per annum.
 Solar pumps may result in saving of 1.2 billion liters of diesel per annum and associated savings in the foreign exchange due to reduction of import of crude oil.
 The scheme has direct employment potential. Besides increasing self-employment, the proposal is likely to generate employment opportunity equivalent to 6.31 lakh job years for skilled and unskilled workers.
 Despite burgeoning farm power subsidies, nearly 30 million farmers, especially marginal landholders, use expensive diesel for their irrigation needs as they have no access to electricity. 

Issues
1. Existing disparity among States with regard to solar pumps deployment and irrigation access. The states of Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan together account for about half of the two lakh solar pumps currently deployed in the country. On the other hand, States such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, where penetration of diesel pumps is among the highest, have not managed to deploy any significant number of solar pumps.
This disparity highlights poor State budget allocation towards solar pumps and the lack of initiative by State nodal agencies.
2. Inequity within a State: For instance, 90% of Bihar’s farmers are small and marginal. Yet, they have received
only 50% of government subsidies on solar pumps. On the other hand, in Chhattisgarh, about 95% of beneficiaries are from socially disadvantaged groups due to the mandate of the State.
3. One-size-fits-all approach: It proposes a 60% subsidy for the pumps, borne equally by the Centre and the States, and the remaining 40% will be the farmer’s contribution — 10% as down payment and 30% through loans. 

Way forward
1. To encourage more equitable deployment of 5 lakh offgrid pumps by 2022, the Centre should incentivise States through target linked financial assistance, and create avenues for peer learning.
2. A share of central financial assistance under KUSUM should be appropriated for farmers with small landholdings and belonging to socially disadvantaged groups.
3. A higher capital subsidy support to small and marginal farmers and longterm loans with interest subsidies for large and medium farmers would be a more economical and equitable alternative.

If designed better and implemented effectively, KUSUM holds the potential to catapult the Indian irrigation economy from an era mired in perpetual subsidy, unreliable supply, and inequitable distribution of resources to a regime of affordable, reliable, and equitable access to energy and water.

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