The Madhya Pradesh government will soon introduce the country’s first prepaid card-enabled irrigation system for its farmers to keep the water usage transparent.
According to the plan, all that the farmers will have to do is to get the pre-paid user card, carrying his name, photo and user number, insert it into the meter set up at the nearby supply station. The card insertion will ask the farmer to enter the amount of money he wants the water to be released. As soon as it is done, the meter will automatically start the pump and release the water to the value entered into. The amount, of course, will be deducted from the card value, according to officials in Indore. The farmers can get the card recharged as and when required, they said.
The user card system is part of a bigger Narmada-Malwa-Gambhir link project, under which underground water lines would be laid and metered distribution points set up, covering 50,000 hectares area in Indore and Ujjain districts in the first phase.
The state government had approved the project with an estimated cost of Rs. 2,143 crore in June this year. State principal secretary (water resources and food processing) RS Julania told HT, "The scheme has been designed on the lines of a similar scheme in Bangladesh. The tenders for the project will be out in next few days."
According to officials, in Bangladesh, the computerised automatic irrigation charge collection system was first introduced by an autonomous body BMDA formed by the government to develop agriculture facilities in the country. The whole system is well-monitored and the officials check the prepaid meters regularly to take the information of the pump usage. To crosscheck the usage hours, electricity meter readings are also registered.
Officials said the pre-paid card system would not only ensure farmers pay for the amount of water they use, but that no local operator exploits them by overcharging. It is particularly useful for small and marginal farmers who don’t have the resources to invest in a tube-well based irrigation system, the officials said.