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Q: Should power be given free to farmers?
(This is the last and final instalment of readers’ views that we have received in response to this question)

Free power may make land barren

THE supply of free power to farmers is directly linked with underground water. It leads to over exploitation of this scarce natural source. During the five years when electric supply was free in Punjab, the water table in some districts had gone down considerably and farmers are still going deeper in search of water by installing deep submersible pumps using heavy-duty motors consuming more power. Political considerations should not overlook the ground realities. Government can think of helping farmers in some other ways. Free electric supply could not help SAD-BJP to win the last Assembly elections. A few years more of this honeymoon with free power will render many areas in Punjab and elsewhere barren. We won't get water even for drinking, leave aside irrigation. We should seriously think of encouraging drip irrigation and ban flood irrigation of crops. Australia and Israel have used this very successfully. They are wiser.

— D. S. THAKUR, Hoshiarpur

Don’t patronise fake have-nots

Broadly speaking we have two categories of farmers; those with limited holding and those who have substantial lands with innovative and mechanised farming. While the latter have enriched over the years and build palatial air-conditioned houses which are often run on the free electricity provided the former are left toiling. While both fall under the general term `farmers', it is the former category that needs free power. Therefore some criteria on the basis of land holding should be formulated segregating the two and free sops in the shape of power be given accordingly and not in a blanket manner to all and sundry.

— M.S. ANAND, Amritsar

Misuse will be rampant

Anything which is given free of cost will not be appreciated and it will be misused. Hence power should only be given on subsidised rates. There is a possibility of the electricity given in the name of farmers to be misutilised.

— K.M. BABU, on email

Industry, too, gets sops

The Indian polity has lately been shaken to realise that agriculture is the base of the country's economical and political pyramid. Farmers have remained the most unorganised and oppressed for centuries. If we can afford to give tax-free holidays to industries, freebies to the other oppressed classes, then why not bring a little smile on the farmer's face by providing him with free electricity. This will boost agriculture production. The only caution is that free power should be given to farmers with less than 10-acre holding or only the big fish will gulp the benefit.

— SIMPY SAINI, Chandigarh

No one had asked for it

Free power to run the tubewells is neither an economic need nor was there any demand for it. It was a political stunt to grab the chair. Even today, farmers are more interested in uninterrupted and longer supply. The electricity board is not a philanthropic organisation; law requires it to work on commercial lines as prescribed. The government is morally and even legally bound to compensate it for forced free supply. Absence of such compensation resulted in boards' inability to install additional generating capacity, causing ever increasing shortages.

Free power to farmers generates a similar demand from other poor sections of society. How would government satisfy all? Free supply of any commodity carries with it element of misuse and wastage. Unless fully subsidised, free supply should end for restoring the financial health of the power boards and enabling these to increase generation and eliminate shortage.


It’s just for votes

The hard-earned power by the government at the Centre has made it sit and consider giving free power to farmers. The state governments are joining the chorus. The idea has not been born out of the concern for farmers, but due to political compulsions. It is not "free power" but "freely supplied power" that will improve the fate of the peasantry. Power cuts for nearly 18 hours in the rural sector makes mockery of the slogan "free power to farmers". Freebies have already spoilt the Indian economy. Supply good-quality seed, uninterrupted power, assured marketing capped with agriculture based industry instead.

— Dr KULDIP SINGH, Hoshiarpur

National policy needed

Agriculture has been the mainstay of our economy. Farming not only provides us with food but also earn foreign exchange for the nation. The role of farmers can never be overemphasised in the Indian context. They should be encouraged by attractive policies like more subsidies and free power. Rather, free power to farmers should be made a national policy to prevent the political parties from exploiting the gullible farmers on the election eve. The government should look for alternative sources of power that won't put additional burden on the state governments, for our resources, too, are limited.

— RAJIV BHALLA, Mani Majra

Big no to freebies

Free supply to farmers will increase wastage of electricity and precious water. The Electricity department will ignore the maintenance of transformers and supply lines, resulting in interrupted supply to the farmer. Only small and marginal farmers should be given power at the subsidised rates and big farmers should be charged at normal rates. Farmers should be given a good price for their product. The state electricity boards are already running in loss and cannot afford free power. The lollypop of free power is shown to farmers only to grab their votes.

Kot Khalsa, New Abadi, Amritsar

Let market forces rule

The answer to this question lies in the rule of free liberal market. In a free market, where there is limited government interference and rule of law prevails, each commodity used in the mode of production is priced according to its demand. Then only can it be paid for according to its contribution in the production process. When a commodity is given free, wastage increases and there is less efficient use of that commodity. We don't have any electricity to waste. Let the price be led by the market forces and not the government.

Punjab School of Economics, Amritsar

Teach them to use power

It is human to abuse, especially if it is free. Instead of free power, farmers should be given free practical training for using power efficiently. Such knowledge, given free, even if used to the maximum, will only bring benefits. Energy should be conserved.

— PUJA PURI, Sundernagar

Limit the exemption

Keeping in view of the interests of government as well as civilians, giving free power to farmers is a destructive thought. The government should waive the charges on upto a certain limit of power units supplied to the agriculture sector. Besides, it should pay more attentive towards solving power related problems.

— BIMA SINGH, VPO Devigarh (Patiala).

Sell at cost price

Only deserving farmers should be extended this facility or bonanza. Prosperous farmers, who can comfortably afford to pay the electricity bill, should not be covered under this.

Electricity has became more costly and giving it free to one section of society will be unfair on part of the government. Free electricity will beget many problems. Electricity to farmers should be given not free, but on "no profit no loss" basis.

— UJAGAR SINGH, Chandigarh

Generation is costly

Power generation needs huge investment. Its transmission and upkeep also require capital. There should be some return on this investment. About 70 per cent people of our country are engaged in agriculture.

Free power them would mean putting additional burden on the remaining 30 per cent. Among them are also persons living below poverty line. Doling out free power has pushed state electricity boards (PSEB for sure) into doldrums. The SEBs should not be put into further financial crisis.


Farmers need much more

Farmers are among the poorest in society. Their earnings do not match their expenses, thereby they have no savings. Mounting debts due to losses are forcing farmers to commit suicide. They are affected by vagaries of nature and have dismal living standards. Villagers are deprived of many of basic facilities which we all enjoy in cities. Farmers toil fields day and night braving heat, chill, rain and snakes, compared to the luxurious life of cities. Above all, they create buffer stocks and surplus for exports to earn precious forex. Not just free power, they also deserve free education, free sanitation, free healthcare and free training.

— M. S. KHANGURA, Mohali

Soft loans are an alternative

Power should not be given free or subsidised to any farmer. However, the local co-operative, rural development agencies and banks may give soft loans to the poor farmers and recover the sum paid for electricity when the farmers has sold his products. Electricity boards should ensure sufficient and full-voltage electricity to avoid misuse of power by unauthorised factories set up by farmers.

— R. L. GUPTA, Ambala

It will cause more line loss

Power should not be given free to farmers, as it will be misused resulting in more line loss. The electricity department will not be able to bear the losses. The owners of tubewells will sell the water to the poor farmers which may not be in time, resulting in poor production. Lastly, diversification of crops will be badly affected and water level will go down further due to more operating tubewells.


Free power is not free

Many farmers do not bother to switch off their pumpsets even when they do not need power, at the cost of those who do. Many farmers do not replace their obsolete, power guzzling pumpsets with new energy-efficient ones because power is free. Free power deprives the poor of drinking water and small farmers cannot irrigate their fields because overpumping has made the water level go down. Free power means less money with the state government. Free power is not free but highly expensive because it stands in the way of rural development.



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