It was a bolt out of the blue for about 200 farmers from the Nalgonda district. Since 2004, they have been under the impression that their bills for agricultural power consumption would be paid by the government. But they have been rudely awakened by the recent demand notices and whopping bills served by the Central Power Distribution Company (CPDCL).
A few farmers from two mandals of the Nalgonda district, namely Mattampalli and Huzurnagar, arrived at the discom’s corporate office on Wednesday, holding the power bills with amounts between Rs.40,000 and Rs.50,000 as arrears.
The farmers received disconnection notices in November, 2012, asking for payment of energy charges along with arrears which, compounded at a late-payment fee of 18 per cent, had already run into tens of thousands of rupees.
The rationale supplied by the discom in the notices was that the farmers had more than 2.5 acres of the ayacut under the Nagarjunasagar Project, and hence, the free power would not be applicable to the pump-sets used by them. Further, the company alleged that they had failed to pay the bills despite repeated notices.
“On paper, our lands are shown within the ayacut of the project, but we have never received even a drop of water as our plots are located at the tail-end of the canal. Otherwise, why would we dig two to three bore-wells in our lands?” questions Maridi Satyanarayana, a farmer from Bakkamanthula Gudem village from Mattampalli mandal.
Admitting that the company had once issued bills in 2011-12 to a few farmers, he claims that the local CPDCL officials, when demanded for an explanation, asked the farmers to pay merely the service charges and ignore the bills served. Further, they had not informed them that their lands came under the definition of irrigated lands.
AP Rythu Sangham president Pasya Padma, who accompanied the farmers, sought to ask why the discom had not thought of disconnecting the services for eight years since 2004, if so many consumers continued to default. “Further, they have begun to remove household connections against defaults pertaining to agricultural connections. They are even including bills of agricultural consumption within the bills of household connections. Which rule of the Electricity Act empowers the officials to do so?” she questions.
A senior official from the discom admitted that the field staff could have been lax in serving the bills despite generating them, as the assumption then was that the farmers would not be charged. However, faced with the spectre of losses, the company has, of late, intensified its bill collections, he said.