The advise of the Planning Commission of India to the Government of Haryana regarding imposing a cess on power used by agriculture sector has put the government in a fix.
The Planning Commission’s intention behind this is to dissuade the farmers from relying heavily on tubewell irrigation that has resulted into consistent depletion of thewater table.
Haryana has over 89 per cent irrigated area and a large part has no access to the canal system. The farmers are left with the only option of exploiting underground water.
According to estimates the water table in Haryana has been depleting at the rate of 0.32 metres every year. The Planning Commission’s observation cannot be ignored by the state government in the wake of the rapidly dwindling water table.
A senior official in the state apprised that any decision pertaining to electricity tariff was under purview of the Haryana Electricity Regulatory Commission (HERC). So the recommendation of the Planning Commission about cess on power used for agriculture would be referred to the HREC and the HREC has the authority to implement it.
The state has been making efforts to promote drip irrigation and sprinklers to contain the use of water.
He added the recommendations of the Planning Commission were useful but not viable.
The lack of forward linkages for horticulture crops which consume less water than paddy and wheat put limitations on the diversification of the agriculture from wheat-paddy monoculture.
He added that a state that makes a huge contribution to the food security of the country should be facilitated to upgrade its canal infrastructure to check the exploitation of underground water.
A cess on power would also have its political implications and this may discourage the authorities to accede to the proposal of planning commission.