Categorisation of applicants causes consternation

The State government's latest scheme of providing free electricity connections to two lakh farmers in the fast mode is experiencing teething troubles.

Complaints of the shortage of energy-efficient pumpsets in the open market, rising cost of such pumpsets, communication problems between farmers and the authorities concerned, and hassles in securing requisite documents from the local revenue officials are among the issues that confront agriculturists.

Categorisation of applicants

Also, what has caused heartburn among certain sections of the farmers is that the categorisation of applicants, as drawn up by power managers, results in the loss of seniority in waiting period.

There is an apprehension that the scheme would be used as an opportunity to have meters installed.

A month ago, Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi instructed the authorities to provide power connections to two lakh agriculturists, whose applications were pending at least for 10 years.

By December, 50,000 applications would be covered and another 50,000 by March.

At an interval of three months from then onwards, one lakh more would be covered in two instalments.

Subsequently, the erstwhile Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB) decided to provide the connections based on the categories of ‘no pole,' ‘single pole' and ‘multiple poles.'

It also issued a circular, stating that applicants had to procure new energy-efficient pumpsets with the star rating of four and above and approved by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE). Thirty-day notices were being issued to eligible applicants for producing necessary documents, including those from the local revenue authorities on ownership of wells and land and expressing willingness to take connections.

P. Ayyakannu, State general secretary, Bharathiya Kisan Sangam, Tiruchi, says motors with four-star rating are not freely available and in some places, artificial scarcity was being created by dealers. This would force farmers to shell out higher prices.

R. Raja Chidambaram, secretary, Tamizhaga Vivasayigal Sangam of the same district, says that in some places, the farmers have not received the notices being issued by the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (TANGEDCO), a successor-entity of the TNEB, seeking their readiness.

Consequently, farmers are thronging the TANGEDCO offices to get the notices. This, again, could result in malpractices.

M. Buthisigamani, a farmer of Madurai, says the system of attaching priority to connections that require the installation of no pole or single pole will not benefit most of the applicants, for whom over two poles have be to erected. ‘Vazhukkuparai' Balu, Coimbatore district president of the Tamilaga Vivasayigal Sangham, says a new motor and pumpset will cost about Rs.50,000 and farmers are unable to generate this huge amount at a short notice.

Responding to the issues, C.P. Singh, Chairman-cum-Managing Director of TANGEDCO, says that it was on the advice of BEE that the stipulation on four-star-rated pumpsets was prescribed.

The availability of energy-efficient pumpsets should not be a huge problem as Coimbatore accounts for nearly 70 per cent of the pumpsets production in the country. In view of the negligible share of Tamil Nadu in the total sales traditionally, the manufacturers were so far supplying most of their equipment to other States.

With the State government's two schemes on irrigation pumpsets, the local demand has naturally gone up.

After the announcement of the latest scheme, the authorities have held discussions with the manufacturers to facilitate smooth availability of pumpsets.

The TANGEDCO has been compelled to categorise the applicants, as its predecessor-entity, TNEB, gave only 40,000 farm connections every year. Now, the organisation has been directed to provide two lakh connections by September 2011.

To effect connections, it has floated bids for the procurement of materials and the supply is expected to commence only after two or three months. As for the loss of seniority, there is no need for any apprehension as all eligible applicants will be given connections. In the Assembly recently, the government made it clear that meters would not be installed.

Will take up with Collectors

The TANGEDCO will take up with District Collectors to ensure that those applicant-farmers are given the necessary documents in a hassle-free manner, Mr. Singh says, indicating the extension of the deadline of time for the submission of documents in deserving cases.

As of now, about 5,000 farmer-applicants have been given connections, he adds.

(With inputs from M. Soundariya Preetha in Coimbatore, S. Ganesan in Tiruchi and S. Sundar in Madurai)