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Around Rs 2.3 Lakhs Vidarbha farmers never paid power bills

  • This should be an eye-opener for politicians who claim that farmers don’t pay power bills when their crops fail. According to MSEDCL data, around 2.28 lakh farmers in Vidarbha have never paid electricity bills. They collectively owe Rs 983 crore to the discom. An MSEDCL officer said, “It is clear that these farmers did not pay power bills because of crop failure. They did not because they never wanted to. It is unfortunate that politicians of all hues support such defaulters.” Farmers collectively owe around Rs 20,000 crore to the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Co Ltd (MSEDCL) and the amount is increasing every month. MSEDCL has launched an amnesty scheme for them. If the defaulting farmer clears his principal amount then the discom would waive off the interest component, which is sometimes more than the principal. Despite this, the response to this scheme has been very poor. In Vidarbha, only 17% of farmers have opted to clear their dues and so far they have paid only 1.5% of the default amount.

  • Most of the defaulters in Vidarbha are from the western part. About 53,500 farmers from Buldhana district have never paid electricity bills and they owe Rs 254 crore to the discom. Around 46,000 farmers of Amravati district owe Rs 251 crore and over 40,000 Yavatmal district farmers owe Rs 228 crore. Washim district is next with 21,000 farmers and Rs 101 crore dues. In Nagpur district, nearly 12,687 farmers owe Rs 31.35 crore in rural areas of the district, while 1,297 farmers owe Rs 4.55 crore in Nagpur city. MSEDCL is unable to crack down on farmers because of political pressure. Whichever party is in power, it opposes disconnection of farmers. There are many leaders who openly ask farmer not to pay electricity bills.

  • The default by farmers leads to constant and steep hikes in power tariff. Recently, MSEDCL had filed a petition in Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) seeking to increase the industrial power tariff by 25% to 30%. Industrial power tariff of the state is already among the highest in the country. It will become the highest if MERC okays the proposal and state’s industries will find it difficult to compete with units in other states.

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