Farmers in Coimbatore region on Friday threatened that they would resort to mass suicides if the government went ahead with its plan to increase the power tariff.
Representatives of various farmers' associations told a public hearing on tariff revision in Coimbatore that the agriculture sector in Tamil Nadu is already in the doldrums due to the failure of monsoons and the resultant drought.
"Any upward revision of tariff will be strongly resisted by all farmers in the state, who, as part of their fundamental rights, are receiving free government subsidised power," Balasubramanian, secretary, Tamilaga Vyavasaigal Sangham (Tamil Nadu Farmers Association) said.
He said failure of monsoon and farmers's failure to repay agricultural loans had already led to some suicides in various parts of Tamil Nadu.
Marginal farmers would suffer the most if there was a hike in power tariff, leaving them with no option but to resort to mass suicides.
The hearing was got up on a tariff revision petition filed by Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (TANGEDCO) and Tamil Nadu Transmission Corporation (TANTRANSCO) before Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission.
Prof Govindasamy of Kongunadu Munetra Dravida Katchi and SR Ragagopal, president, Parambikulam-Azhiyar Irrigation Scheme demanded that TNERC withdraw the plan to hike the Rs. 1,750 annual charges for one horse power agricultural pumps to Rs. 2,500.
Industrial bodies also came out against TANGEDCO for 'discrminating' against power supply to industries in other parts of the state, compared to Chennai.
Industries in the capital enjoyed 22-hour uninterrupted power supply, while those in the rest of the state, particularly the western hub, the industrial region, had to suffer more than 16 hours power cut, they said.
UK Shivagnam of CPI(M) said government has to generate power and not allow private players to come into the picture, as there was a possibility of the tariff being hiked.
Later, B Rajagopal, director, finance, TANGEDCO told reporters that the Commission is expected to submit its report by June 15, as it was given 120 days time to act on the petition filed by the Corporation.