G. Nagaraja

We are being treated as beggars, says a farmer

‘Rachcha bandas’ witness debates on free power promise

There are 90,000 agricultural pumpsets in the village

CHINNAYAGUDEM (WEST GODAVARI DISTRICT): The fate of candidates fighting the election hinges on the issue of free power for agriculture in this major upland village with more than 5,000 voters under Devarapalli mandal of West Godavari district.

The ‘rachcha bandas’ (public platforms) hotted up with debates, centering around the election manifestos of Congress, TDP and PRP vis-a-vis free power in the village greet the visitors.

The politically sensitive village once earned ‘notoriety’ for detaining the visiting AP Transco higher-ups and pending power bills with huge amounts ranging up to Rs 1.6 crore which was latter written off by successive Congress governments in 2005.

Marina Surya Rao, who raised horticultural crops of palm oil, coconut and eucalyptus in his 50 acres plot, takes the TDP president N. Chandrababu Naidu’s promise of 12-hour free power for agriculture with a pinch of salt.

Recalling the alleged dilution of Mr. Naidu’s promise to continue the twin-welfare programmes – Rs. 50 per hp and Rs. 2 a kg rice scheme – initiated by his mentor N.T. Rama Rao, he asks: “ How can I trust Mr. Naidu now”. Velluri Subba Rao is highly critical of the very concept of freebies like free power. “Of course, every party is treating farmers as beggars. It’s quite unfair,” he said.

Even Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy’s free power also seemingly fails to enthuse Pinnamaneni Sudheer Babu, a tobacco farmer. “ Inadequate and poor quality of power forced me to dig two more borewells, each costing Rs. 5 lakh, in a bid to keep motors running which ultimately led my production cost to shoot up manifold,” he bemoaned. Pinnamaneni Venkateswara Rao, another farmer, says, “We don’t want free power. We only want regular and adequate power,” he said. The whole upland tracts with nearly half the total 15 Assembly segments resemble a similar scene.

With a little over 90,000 agricultural pumpsets with a capacity ranging up to 15-20 hp, an extent of five lakh acres in these parts witnessed a horticulture boom in the last two decades, thanks to the supply of power at subsidised rates (Rs 50 per hp) during the NTR government since 1985.