Blaming the loosely hanging power lines for the spate of fire incidents in wheat fields, farmers have dismissed the “meagre” compensation being offered by Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) for the crop loss in the state.
Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) chief Balbir Singh Rajewal, who claimed ripe wheat spread over around 5,000 acres has been gutted this season, alleged PSPCL officials had failed to carry out maintenance of power lines, especially in rural areas.
“The compensation they (PSPCL) offer is too meagre — just Rs 8,000 per acre for complete damage. It should be increased to Rs 40,000 per acre, because contract farmers pay minimum of Rs 35,000 to Rs 40,000 per acre as lease money,” Rajewal told HT.
Sukhwinder Singh, a farmer from Samrala, said the entire responsibility to check there’s no fault in distribution lines passing over fields lies with the farmer concerned. “During harvesting season, we have to be extra vigilant to prevent any untoward incident,” he said.
Throwing more light on the farmers’ plight, Rajewal said: “They (PSPCL) always try to find an excuse and put the onus on others. Recently, after the fire in Moga fields, the PSPCL report stated the crop caught fire after a burnt crow fell on it. But how did the crow got burnt! Because it was sitting on a live wire.”
Rajewal alleged the PSPCL staff, including linemen, junior engineers and sub-divisional engineers, don’t take the responsibility for sagging distribution lines, and if farmers approach them for repairs they demand gratification. “PSPCL depends on us for information on where the grid is overloaded and distribution lines and transformers need repairs before the paddy season,” he said.
Claiming the BKU had overestimated the crop loss, PSPCL chairman-cum-managing director (CMD) A Venuprasad said it was in fact lesser than that during the corresponding time the previous year. The top official, who is also the principal secretary, power, said the PSPCL disburses the compensation at the earliest on the basis of the state government policy. “Any increase in the compensation is a policy matter,” he said.
Minister orders 24X7 monitoring
Power minister Rana Gurjit Singh has issued “strict” instructions to the PSPCL for round-the-clock monitoring for ensuring that no further damage is caused to the crops due to spark in distribution lines running over the fields.
The minister also issued orders to ensure strict monitoring of the wind velocity during the harvesting season between April 7 and May 7. He asked the PSPCL chairman to set up a special monitoring cell to use latest remote sensing technology for forecasting the wind velocity so that power supply can be stopped before wires get snapped and lead to fire.