Government’s withdrawal of biogas subsidy impacts Indian farmers

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Following the withdrawal of a subsidy under the Indian government's National Biogas and Manure Management Programme (NBMMP) for setting up a biogas plant in 2020, there has been a marked decline in number of farmers opting to install family-type biogas plants in the past two years in the Malwa region, reported The Tribune.
The scheme, which run under the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy was predominantly intending to provide biogas as source of clean lighting and cooking fuel in rural and semi-uurban areas. But the subsidy's withdrawal has impaced the installation of the biogas installation project.
As per data procured from the Punjab Energy Development Agency (PEDA), the nodal agency to carry out the project in the state, on an average 400 to 450 family-type biogas plants were installed annually in one district until 2019.
Sources in the agency confirmed that since the subsidy was withdrawn, now on average 60 to 80 farmers opt for the installation of biogas plants and in some districts the number is even below 50.
A PEDA senior manager requesting anonymity said: “Around a decade ago 1,200 biogas plants were installed in [the] Sangrur district in one year alone. Farmers are willing to install the cheaper cooking fuel alternative but subsidy is not available now. So, they do not have any option other than to buy expensive LPG cylinder.
“In Bathinda and Mansa districts where 400 to 450 biogas plants were installed annually, the number has come down drastically. Similarly, in Patiala district also very few farmers opt for biogas plants. Like Malwa region, biogas plant installation has nosedived in Doaba region as well,” he said.
Under the government’s scheme for installing a family-type biogas plant at the cost of Rs 40,000 to 45,000, a subsidy of Rs 12,000 (approx 30%) was provided. Discontinuing of the subsidy has discouraged farmers to install biogas plants.
Balkaran Brar state president Kul Hind Kisan Sabha, said: “Apart from being a cheaper source of clean cooking fuel produced from dung, a biogas plant also provides well-decomposed manure to farmers. The Centre Government must reconsider its decision and revive the subsidy again. Many farmers can get biogas plants installed in villages and will not have to buy expensive LPG cylinders. Such move, discourages people from opting for self-sustaining energy alternatives and makes them dependent on the corporate system.”
Shingara Singh Mann, state general secretary, BKU Ekta Ugrahan, said, “It is yet another development among series of other neoliberal policies of the government, which aims at privatisation. Rather than hand-holding and supporting farmers and labourers by providing them subsidy for cleaner and cheaper cooking fuel alternative, the government is withdrawing it so that corporates can benefit from the same. Such policies have to be countered with agitations similar to that of farmers’ protest against three controversial agricultural laws.”

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