For 5,000-odd residents of several villages in Indore tehsil, the past two years have been a constant struggle of living with long power cuts and unbridled voltage fluctuations that play havoc with household appliances.
The situation was quite normal in Ankia, Garia, Dhaturia, and Bhokakhedi villages, where household chores went unhindered till two years ago when villagers woke up to a rude shock one day – power cables stolen from 17 poles in the villages.
Instead of replacing the cables, the government-run MP West Zone Electricity Distribution Company Ltd (West Discom) connected the villages’ household lines to a power grid that supplies electricity for irrigation purpose.
“Now the problem is that electricity for agricultural purpose is supplied for 10 hours in two shifts in a day while domestic households are supposed to get energy round-the-clock. Since our houses get electricity from a grid meant for agriculture purpose, we get it in shifts. This supply is erratic and bursts house bulbs, tubelights, TV sets,” said Roop Singh Solanki, a resident of Ankia.
The villagers, 80% of whom are farmers, say the problems escalate during October to March when farmers need electricity to draw water for irrigating rabi crops such as wheat and gram.
“Power cuts and voltage fluctuations increase during this period as houses and farms draw electricity from the same grid,” said Solanki, who owns a 6-acre plot of farmland.
The situation in these villages is in sharp contrast to urban areas in Indore district where residents have enjoyed uninterrupted power supply ever since Madhya Pradesh became one of the few states to supply round-the-clock electricity to non-agricultural consumers four years back.
However, energy supply has not improved in villages at the pace claimed by state government. And those who feel the pinch are financially weak farmers.
For instance, the problem occurs when it comes to replacing transformers that have exploded. West Discom personnel allegedly ask farmers to ferry new transformers in their tractors. Farmers claimed that the discom workers also ask them to rent the ‘chain block’, an equipment used to put the transformer in place.
“All farmers don’t have tractors. Nor all have money to rent chain blocks,” ex- Barlai Jagir janpad panchayat member Prahlad Patel said.
The situation becomes worse when transformers go bust at a time when crops require irrigation within three days. West Discom personnel allegedly say that new transformers will be installed only when at least 50% of defaulters of that village pay their dues.
“I had to go to Gautampura located five kilometres from my place to take a chain block on rent. We pay Rs 200 to use it for three hours. We bring the chain block on rent every time a transformer has to be taken down from the pole. West discom doesn’t pay for it,” said Depalpur tehsil farmer Jitendra Kumar Joshi.
West Discom officials deny the charges and say that maintenance is done by the company at its expense.
As per provisions, permanent power connection is given if the distance between electricity pole and farm tubewell is 150 feet or more. The electricity bill of permanent connection comes to Rs 6,500 a year. If the distance is less than 150 feet, then farmers take temporary connection for four months which costs them Rs 15,000.
“This discrepancy needs to be addressed,” Nagar said.