Agriculturists in distress seek at least 8 hours of power supply to save crops  

“I have two acres of sugarcane crop. My crops are like my children, and I’m in the terrible position of seeing my children dying, but not being able to do anything about it.” R.Muralimohan, farmer and secretary of the Maduranthakam Co-operative Sugar Cane Farmers’ Association, is begging with folded hands for help to save his crops.

With the monsoons failing to provide adequate showers to Tamil Nadu, and the situation being compounded by long duration power cuts in the rural areas, farmers in various parts of the State are in much the same situation as Mr. Muralimohan. Multiple factors have worked towards increasing the indebtedness of farmers and reducing yields in the State.

“The truth is we have only three hours of power in Maduranthakam. How can we be expected to water our crops in this short while? Forget future crops, we are finding it tough to save our standing crops,” he says, agitation resounding in his raised voice. “Katri (the peak of summer) begins tomorrow, and we have no idea what we are going to do. Surely, this is going to be the toughest summer ever in my lifetime,” he adds.

Yogendra Naidu, yet another cane farmer from Chengalpattu, is angry when he says, “We do not even have continuous power supply at night. We are used to watering the fields at night at one stretch with the fields lighted up. Now, there are so many interruptions in power supply, we have to work in darkness, and do a haphazard job. The crops suffer, and us farmers too.”

Debts are piling up, and he says, he and others in his area are unable to repay bank loans.

M. Thiruvengadam, who has been in agriculture since 1967, has been feted as a ‘model farmer’ for several achievements in the fields. “The lack of continuous power supply is our biggest problem. Even if there is just three hours power, we are saying give it to us without any break. At the moment, there is power for just an hour and then a break before we can start the motor after power supply resumes. There are about 115 villages in this region who are affected badly by this.”

He continues, “When the State is able to provide power nearly uninterrupted to Chennai and industries, is it too much for farmers in a drought season to ask for the same?”

“We have petitioned Tangedco [Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation] for at least eight hours of power, and that too, we need to have three to two hour slots of interrupted power supply,” says Mr.Muralimohan.

The lack of water and non availability of labour have nearly hollowed out the agriculture sector in the State, says B.Purushothaman, a retired Central government, now settled in Dharmapuri. “Add no power to this, and you see how bad the situation is for farmers.” He says that some farmers are now utilising the one hour of power to pump water and sell it at commercial rates, while in other areas, farmers with no other source of income are finding it tough to water their crops. Some checks must be brought on this, he says.

For pisciculture farmer, J.Sivagnanam of Kattur in Thiruvallur, there is a different problem, again electricity related. Different groups are levied different electricity tariffs, he says, and makes the plea to bring everyone doing the same job under the same slab.

Some of these farmers were in Chennai to participate in a public hearing called by the Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission on tariff revision petitions filed by Tangedco and Tantransco (Tamil Nadu Transmission Corporation).

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