A major demand of the farmers, voiced normally only during the paddy growing season, relates to compensation for working hours lost due to power breakdowns, in the assured 8-hour uninterrupted power supply promise of the government. The compensation that demanded is not in cash, but in kind.
If farmers of a particular village lose 2-3 hours of power supply to their tubewells out of the promised 8-hour supply on any given day, due to some technical fault in the electricity feeder or in the supply lines, then the hours lost are usually compensated the following day or on any other day.
Punjab State Power Corporation Ltd (PSPCL) officials claim that though there is no such rule, they remain ready to accommodate farmers for the hours lost. The compensation demand grows during the paddy season.
However due to excessive load on feeders and transformers, power breakdowns are common. It is very rare for farmers to get the promised 8-hour uninterrupted supply on any given day.
A group of farmers from Amritsar district raised this demand of compensation with PSPCL, deputy chief engineer, suburban, Narinder Singh Bal.
"We sometimes just get an hour of electricity to operate our tubewells. Then, we have to spend extra money on diesel for our generator sets to draw out groundwater," said Jagtar Singh of Mehalawala village.
When the PSPCL official told the farmers that they could take up the matter with the field staff, he claimed:"An oft repeated remark of your officials is that, you cannot be compensated for something which you are getting free."
Harjit Singh of Cheetha village said that it was better paying for power and then demanding that their grievances be attended to. He said that in rural areas, complaints of power breakdowns are never registered.
Satnam Singh of Khuala village said that a normal excuses of officials for not attending to complaints are shortage of field staff, including linesmen. He said that in his village, overhead wires passing through fields were loose and sagging and the number of poles were less than the required number.
Karnail Singh of Nag village said. "It is difficult to irrigate vegetables during the night as these need only a specific quantity of water unlike paddy. Vegetable growers must be given supply during the day," he added.