After loans, Maharashtra farmers now want state to waive ₹22,000 crore electricity dues
Mumbai city news: Dues worth Rs15,000 crore piled up since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in Maharashtra in 2014mumbai Updated: Jul 18, 2017 10:16 IST
After receiving an assurance of a farm loan waiver worth Rs34,022 crore, the farmers now want the state to waive their electricity dues worth Rs22,000 crore.
Dues accumulated over the past 10 years are Rs35,000 crore and include various consumers such as residential, commercial and industrial. The dues from agricultural consumers alone are Rs22,000 crore, of which Rs15,000 crore piled up since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in Maharashtra.
To make matters worse, farmers in several regions have stopped paying electricity bills after the protest for farm loan waiver gathered momentum. Despite launching amnesty scheme to waive interest on dues, the government received a poor response from defaulters.
Several farmers’ outfits have now started to push for waiver of the arrears and issuance of fresh electricity bills. During a meeting with Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, the farmers from Puntambe, Ahmednagar, where the first resolution of the farmers’ strike was passed, requested the former union agriculture minister to push for their demand.
“It becomes very difficult to run operations without recovering electricity bills. We have been heavily cross subsidising agricultural meters to charge farmers Rs0.85 to Re1 per unit against the purchase cost of Rs6 per unit from the open. We have been compassionate towards the farmers by not disconnecting the transformers for non-payment. During the Congress-NCP regime, Mahadiscom would discontinue power supply to transformers to recover dues. We have increased power supply for agricultural pumps from 8 to 12 hours. But still there is apathy among farmers over clearing their dues,” Chandrashekhar Bawankule, state power minister, told HT.
To encourage farmers to clear dues, the government waived penalty and interest amount on dues for five months.
“The response has been dismal, as we recovered only Rs100 crore and that too from all types of consumers. The dues have gone up to Rs22000 from Rs8,000 crore in 2013, mostly because of the policies of the BJP government. The then power minister Ajit Pawar had linked the duration of the load shedding to the loss of electricity and dues from the supply zones. Today, farmers with luxury cars at disposal do want to clear their electricity bills and are hoping for a waiver,” said an Mahadiscom official.
Marathwada districts owe the most (Rs 5200 crore) in dues followed by districts in western Maharashtra (Rs 4200 crore). The state is now planning to categorise farmers into five categories and extend the cross subsidy only to the needy. “We have sought help from Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission’s to separate wealthy farmers who can pay higher rates,” the minister said.