Free electricity is a pipe dream for poor farmers in Tamil Nadu | Chennai News

Be it a small, medium or large farmer, the government of Tamil Nadu provides free power connections. However, the expense of digging new boreholes or renovating existing ones, and the money to be spent on greasing the authorities’ hands with electricity control are causing small farmers to drop out of the race.
A portion of the farmers believe that there are several issues that should be addressed first to ensure that the free power supply system is inclusive and efficient.
In accordance with the government order issued on September 15, 2021 by Tangedco, the Minister of State for Electricity announced that one lakh agricultural service connections will be provided to the pump sets of farmers in the state on a fast lane .
Recently, Chief Minister MK Stalin said that one lakh free power connections had been provided to farmers in less than a year. Farmers said that although the government has said those with a minimum amount of land – half an acre – are eligible to register for free electricity, hundreds of thousands of rupees have to be spent on digging wells borehole to irrigate only half an acre. “So farmers who own large tracts of land are coming forward to use the scheme.
Farmers who can spend a minimum of Rs 3 lakh for a borehole can afford to get the connection,” said PS Masilamani, General Secretary of Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam affiliated with CPI. “Some people have been waiting for electricity for years.
The boreholes they dug are filled with silt, so they have to spend money to desilt it. If more than one electric pole is needed, the farmer must pay for it. These things can only be possible for those who have money,” he said. Masilamani said apart from the money to be spent on set up, farmers have to spend up to 50,000 rupees “to get things done at a faster pace”.
In accordance with the 2021-22 allocation, more than 70% of connections were made under the normal regime, which is free. While 25% of the farmers were privileged under the self-financing scheme, where farmers were required to contribute money ranging from Rs 10,000 to Rs 50,000. The remaining farmers were given a connection under the tatkal program, for which they paid Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 3 lakh, depending on the driving power they needed, he said.
The scheme has a general specification which does not work for all regions, said Swamimalai S Vimalnathan, secretary of Tamil Nadu Cauvery Farmers Welfare Association. “According to the standards set by the PWD department, the borehole should be dug 200m from the water source. Being a delta region, this rule cannot be applied here. Because bodies of water and canals criss-cross the fields. Due to this rule, several farmers were unable to apply for the scheme,” he said.
The organization demanded the repeal of the government order for the delta region. At least 17,672 power connections have been provided to farmers in delta districts, including 3,115 connections in Trichy district in 2021-22. Beyond the number of connections provided, the inequalities of the diagram become apparent. For example, thousands of farmers with less than an acre of farmland have obtained power connections under the 3A1 tariff plan.
These farmers mainly grow vegetables, flowers and greens. As these products come under horticultural crops, they remit up to Rs 25,000 as electricity tariff per year. “Although they are small farmers (at the land level), they do not have free power supply. Meanwhile, farmers with larger farmlands get free electricity under the scheme. So, to benefit small farmers, the government should grant an exemption on the electricity bill,” Vimalnathan said. In Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, farmers are provided with free power connections within 30 days of request. The Tamil Nadu government must also speed up the process, farmers say.
But that seems unlikely with Tangedco mired in a staff shortage. “The number of employees available in the department is not sufficient to support the statewide agricultural project. Something as simple as moving poles on farmland is also affected due to lack of staff,” said Dr Kalaiselvan, a farmer from Thanjavur. Another problem is the shortage of high voltage (HV) power cables.
“Previously, we were waiting for a transformer. Now, due to unavailability of HV power cables, we could not get power. Officials cited the war in Ukraine for the shortage of HV power cables,” said Kalaiselvan, for whom electricity to run his water pump is a pipe dream.

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