With the returns from farming dwindling and Punjab NRIs worrying about their lands, they now appear to be turning towards producing solar power in their fields. While a 1,000KW plant, established by an NRI family over their five acres, has already started producing power, Punjab Energy Development Agency officials are getting more queries from expatriates about these plants.
In Lallian Kalan village near Jalandhar, the solar power plant has been established by UK-based NRIs Avtar Singh Kang and his son Rao Varinder Singh Kang, which has started power generation and has been connected to the transmission lines in neighbouring Chitti village. “Started with 3,440 solar panels, the plant is expected to produce 5,000 units in a day on an average and gross income from this is projected to be Rs 1 crore to Rs 1.25 crore while a 25-year agreements has been signed with Punjab State Power Corporation Limited. PEDA is the facilitator for the project,” said consultant K K Bassi.
“We had our eight acre ancestral agriculture land in the village and our entire family is settled in UK. We used to give the land on contract and returns were not much. We have used five acres for this project and have kept the remaining land for personal use. One also remains apprehensive about land sharks who work with official connivance, especially when the entire family is settled abroad. However, in this project with involvement of government agencies and everything processed legally, one feels secure about the land,” said Avtar, who immigrated to UK over five decades ago.
“We wanted to retain our land and my son Rao Varinder, who is a successful hotelier and realtor in UK, wanted to invest in Punjab. This project appeared smoother, safe and secure for land,” he revealed.
Another solar power plant near Amritsar was established by US-based Ranbir Singh Chhina’s company last year. “Though there were no problems in executing the project, other issues remain like finances. State government needs to make it completely hassle-free even as a lot of change is already there,” he said. However, he said it needs to be made more lucrative to attract more NRIs towards setting up solar power plants as there was little difference between the interest they were paying on availed finance and the annual income.
“When returns from agriculture are not rising, rich farmers or NRIs, who own agricultural land here, can come forward to establish more plants. For NRIs, easy maintenance and ensured returns, security of land and legal battles arising out of land disputes remain the biggest issues,” said a PEDA official.
PEDA director Balour Singh said they were already receiving more queries from NRIs for establishing such solar plants and in the new allotted tenders some companies are of the NRIs. “We are also working on a new policy so that individual farmers can also come forward for such projects,” he said.