Pointing to a two-hour cut in electricity supplied daily to farmers for agricultural purposes, Congress MLAs told the Gujarat Assembly on Tuesday that they were flooded with calls from agitated farmers and were scared to return to their respective assembly constituencies.
“In my Talaja constituency that is part of Bhavnagar district, I am getting over 200 telephone calls a day questioning me about the electricity issue. The situation of electricity supply is so bad that we cannot return to our constituency,” said Congress MLA Kanu Bariya, questioning the government on why daily power supply to agricultural users was reduced to six from eight hours.
The Gujarat government supplies subsidised power for agricultural use for eight hours, which is usually during the night. The state government has also floated a new scheme to supply electricity to farmers during daytime, but it has had limited success.
“Despite the chief minister giving an assurance of power supply for six hours, today the supply is intermittent with gaps as long as 1-3 hours,” Baria said. He added that the farmers who venture out at night to irrigate their land are facing power cuts and intermittent supply.
“I request the government to sort out the power supply issue in a week or so, because it won’t be long before farmers uproot the 27-year-old government from the state,” he added.
Another Congress MLA, Jasu Patel from the Bayad constituency, said that he has to switch off his phone at night to avoid telephone calls from farmers. “I am forced to switch off my phone as I am getting more than 200 calls at night. The situation is so bad that farmers might come to beat me up and the government will need to provide me protection,” said Patel.
“There is no water to drink. Borewells have dried up and if needed please supply water using tankers. If our ponds do not get filled, then the day would come when we have to migrate to Rajasthan,” Patel added.
Gulabsinh Rajput, Congress MLA from Tharad, asked government to cut power to industries and supply the same to farmers.
“If the government cuts power supply to industries by just an hour, then farmers in Gujarat can get 24-hour power supply for irrigation. If you can impose power cuts on farmers, then do the same for industries,” Rajput said.
Nathabhai Patel, Congress MLA from Dhanera in Banaskantha, also raised the issue and said farmers in his constituency are getting only 3-4 hours of power for irrigation.
Despite Opposition protests, Agriculture Minister Raghavji Patel did not touch upon the electricity cut issue during his reply in the House, asking legislators to consider that power is supplied to farmers at a much lower rate compared to industries.
“Electricity supplied to farmers for agricultural purposes costs just 60 paise per unit and it hasn’t changed for 20 years. You can compare it with the cost of power supplied to industries,” the minister said in the House.
“To ensure farmers get low cost electricity and power connections, Gujarat government allocates Rs 8,500-crore subsidy. From this, you can understand how much importance government gives to farmers,” he added.
During the second sitting of the House on Tuesday, Energy Minister Kanu Desai said government has allocated Rs 1,400 crore for 2022-’23 to create the necessary infrastructure for expanding Kisan Suryoday Yojana where farmers will be given power for agricultural uses during the day. He said the renewable energy capacity of Gujarat which is 15,449 MW will be raised to 19,700 MW by the end of 2022.
The minister also said that the government does not collect fuel price and power purchase adjustment charges from the farmers. Desai said the government plans to provide an additional 61,469 agricultural electricity connections in the state for the year 2022-’23. The government also plans to separate 306 agricultural feeders provide subsidised power to farmers.
Gujarat’s electricity generation costs went up significantly due to the Russia-Ukraine war and rise in coal prices but the financial burden was borne by the state government, Kanubhai Desai told the Assembly. “Due to the Ukraine war and rising cost of coal, our electricity generation cost went up to Rs 3,000 crore. However, the entire cost was borne by the government without increasing power tariffs of citizens, farmers, etc.,” he said. He said Gujarat’s per capita power consumption is almost double that of the country.