Despite offering farmers a waiver on interest and penalty, they have not responded proactively to state power distribution company Mahavitaran’s amnesty scheme, which was introduced to recover unpaid bills.
The state government announced a heavy discount scheme called Krishi Sanjeevani in last year’s budget after 33 lakh farmers in the state defaulted to the tune of Rs6,000 crore (unpaid bills, interest and penalty) in their payments to Mahavitaran.
In November last year, Mahavitaran had disclosed that of the 33 lakh farmers, 6.5 lakh did not pay their monthly bills even once after being provided a connection to an electricity line. These 6.5 lakh farmers together owe the company a Rs1,800 crore in accumulated dues.
Energy minister Ajit Pawar, who also has the finance portfolio under his wing, expected to recover the original bill amount of Rs2,900 crore from the 33 lakh defaulting farmers.
However, till December Mahavitaran could recover only Rs251 crore from four lakh farmers, which translates to 9% of the expected amount.
With dues of Rs2,649 crore pending, the company’s financial health could further deteriorate as it is already struggling to recover Rs12,000 crore from other consumers.
Despite this, the state is not planning to take any action against the defaulters because of the zilla parishad and panchayat samiti elections in February. Instead, it has extended the amnesty scheme till March.
As a rule, Mahavitaran is required to take action against a domestic consumer within two months of default on payment. However the company has been unable to take similar action against farmers because of political pressure.
Mahavitaran supplies power to 1.90 crore consumers by buying power at an average cost of Rs5.20 per unit. In a cross subsidy regime — a social obligation — agriculture pumps get power at subsidised rates for nearly nine hours daily. While other consumers are charged between Rs1.15 and Rs9 per unit, farmers pay 20-50
paisa per unit. The state government pays the subsidy to Mahavitaran, albeit irregularly.
Pawar, officials from the energy department and Mahvitaran refused to talk to Hindustan Times because of the election code of conduct.
The election code is enforced from the day that poll dates are announced and is in place till the results are announced. During this period, political parties cannot undertake any activity that may influence voters.