London: A new report by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) has commended the Jyotigram Yojana launched by the Gujarat government in 2003, that provides 24-hour power supply to villages in the state.
The report, titled 'Feeding a Thirsty World: Challenges and Opportunities for a Water and Food Secure Future', has been published as the institute's input for the ongoing 2012 World Water Week in Stockholm from August 26 to 31.
The report mentions achievements of the Jyotigram Yojana launched by the Narendra Modi government in September 2003 while warning about water scarcity and its impact on food production and for the estimated global population of 9 billion by 2050.
By then, the report says, there will not be enough water to produce enough food. The report says, "In trying to solve water problems, we often look for 'optimal' solutions emanating from our disciplinary or sectoral perspectives. However, holding out for the best often means we miss other opportunities for positive change as the case of Gujarat, India shows".
Recalling the power-deficit situation before the Jyotigram Yojana was launched, the report notes the situation has now changed across rural Gujarat.
The report says that the Yojana's 'alternative approach' "diverges from the textbook optimum and embraces the electricity subsidies as a strategy".
"Under the programme, rural Gujarat has been completely rewired. Villages are given 24-hour, three-phase power supply for domestic uses, in schools, hospitals, and village industries, all at metered rates", the report says.
It adds, "The Jyotigram scheme has now radically improved the quality of village life, spurred non-farm economic enterprises, and halved the power subsidy in agriculture. The solution may not be perfect, but it has proved to be implementable and it has brought substantial improvement in and outside the water sector".
Rather than viewing subsidies as a default component, the Jyotigram Scheme focuses on providing rationally managed subsidies where needed, and pricing where possible, the report says, and notes that farmers operating tube-wells continue to receive free electricity, but for 8 hours, rather than 24 hours and, "importantly for the satisfaction of farmers, on a pre-announced schedule designed to meet their peak demands".
"The separation of agricultural energy from other uses and the promise of quality supply were sufficient to gain political and social backing for implementation", the report says.