TAMIL NADU

Free power is `just farm investment'

Coimbatore Nov. 10 . The Tamilaga Vivasayigal Sangham has urged the State Electricity Regulatory Commission that free power extended to farmers be not withdrawn.

Calling the supply free power itself hurts the pride of farmers, as it is just an investment by the State in agriculture. Hence, it should be described as ``agriculture power'', P. Shanmughasundaram, district president, said in a memorandum.

Besides, the concession had not been granted to any farmer per se but was only provided for pumpsets. If ``even during drought consumers are able to get foodgrains at a cheap rate, it is only because of this concession''.

It was only in Tamil Nadu pumpsets had to be installed to pump water from a depth of 250-1,000 feet. Hence comparisons with other States were invidious.

Besides, as much as Rs. 1 lakh was spent on sinking each borewell, especially for protecting coconut trees and meeting drinking water scarcity. If these farmers paid electricity charges, they could not save even a paisa from selling coconut.

If free power was withdrawn, agriculture would be ruined leading to ``suicides, thefts, robberies and law and order problems,'' the memorandum cautioned, pointing out that at present farm workers had no work and even if there was any, they were paid poorly.

Free power constituted only a small portion of the government expenditure. The memorandum said the State might have to lose revenue from various sources including taxes on industrial alcohol, drugs and chemicals, if agriculture suffered.

While agriculture was generating jobs worth Rs. 8,262 crores a year, the Government could as well foot Rs. 534 crores on electricity charges for farming, the memorandum said.

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