Farmers in Telangana have an unusual request to the authorities – they want the government to discontinue 24-hour electricity.
Three districts in the state were promised round the clock electricity earlier this year by the state officials.
According to the latest statistics, nearly 300 million Indians do not have electricity in the country. Around 40 million households in India do not have electrical power. In 2016, India’s power ministry said that the country’s per capita consumption is significantly lower than the world average. Additionally, large swaths of India are plagued by rampant power cuts.
In July 2017, the Telangana Government announced plans to offer round the clock power supply to the farm sector. It was going, to begin with a pilot project covering a million agriculture consumers across three districts.
The farmers in that region at this point receive about nine hours of electricity. D Prabhakar Rao, Chairman and Managing Director of TS Transco, said, “The move to provide 24x 7 to the farm sector will be a major boon in a State which started its journey as a power deficit one when it was formed in June 2014.” He added, “From a peak demand of about 144 million units in 2013-2014, the demand has now shot up to 185 million and we are in a position to meet the entire demand without any power cuts across all consumer sections. We now have a peak demand of about 8300 MW and this had shot up to 9191 MW in March 2017. This is projected to go up to 11,000 MW when the agriculture connections get 24x7 power. Telangana now has a capacity of 13,095 MW, which includes 1000 MW sourced from Chhattisgarh. Over the next three years, we are planning to add another 13,000 MW.”
Agriculture is an important part of the Telangana economy with rice being the major food crop and staple for the state. Much of the irrigation happens due to important rivers like the Godavari and the Krishna river flowing through the state.
According to a BBC report, farmers in the villages that will be getting round the clock electricity are unhappy with the development. In fact, they have made a formal request to the government to rescind its program and allow only nine hours of electricity. According to these villages, 24 X 7 electricity would result in excessive pumping of groundwater.
Yerram Anjireddy, a farmer, told BBC Telugu, “Motors will pull out groundwater and bore wells will dry out. We are completely dependant on borewells for farming. The 24-hour power supply is a big threat to our future.”
Farmers are worried because they have configured their motors to automatically start pumping water whenever electricity comes in the region. They are already facing a shortage in groundwater and they are afraid that this will result in groundwater from disappearing. These districts are especially prone to droughts. Telangana officials have further confirmed to BBC that three other districts of Medak, Nalgonda, and Karimnagar. The officials have reportedly cut down electricity supply to 12 hours currently, however, farmer complains that even that will be too much.
Our assessment is that governments must be prepared to talk to the key stakeholders before announcing grandiose plans. The plight of theTelangana farmers is one where the government perhaps did not fully comprehend the consequences of scheme they have intriduced. Farmers need water more than a 24/7 availability of electricity. We believe that it is important for goverment and key decision makers to first listen to those whom they wish to impact with their policy.