The Gujarat government seems to be providing electricity connections for non-agricultural uses at a faster pace than for agricultural uses. In the last two years, over 81 per cent of applications, seeking power for agricultural use, have been pending with the Gujarat government. The percentage of pending applications under Jyotigram Yojana is just 4.4 per cent, the state legislature was informed on Wednesday.
In 2016 and 2017, a total of 1.61 lakh applications from 33 districts were submitted to the state government, seeking electricity connection for agricultural usage. Of these applications, 1.32 lakh applications (81.64 per cent) lie pending, states the written replies filed by the government in response to the several questions posed during the Question Hour on Wednesday. A total of 7,954 applications have also been rejected for “various reasons,” stated the government.
The highest number of pending applications are in Rajkot district (12,062), followed by Banaskantha (10,197) and Amreli (9,020). Banaskantha also has the highest number of rejected applications (2,613). In comparison, during this two-year period, the state government received 5.51 lakh applications from 31 districts for electricity connections under Jyotigram Yojana, a scheme that began in September 2003 for providing three-phase round-the-clock power supply to all villages and their hamlets for non-agricultural uses, including residential, commercial and for cottage and agro industries.
Under this scheme that separates agricultural feeders from domestic feeders, the number of pending applications is just 24,390, which is 4.4 per cent of the total applications received during the last two years. The highest number of electricity connections provided under Jyotigram are in Surat (57,059), Ahmedabad (53,139) and Gandhinagar (28,234) districts. The maximum number of applications rejected were in Dahod (7,481).
According to government sources, the agricultural connections given out in the state are heavily subsidised. For instance, state government charges about 60 paise per unit every month from metered agricultural consumers (irrigation). In comparison, the energy charges under Jyotigram scheme are much higher.
Gujarat Energy Minister Saurabh Patel, while speaking on the supplementary demands in the Gujarat Assembly on Wednesday, said that the state government was providing Rs 4,000 crore worth of subsidies to farmers in the power sector. “Today, the cost-to-serve for one unit of electricity is Rs 6, but we charge only 60 paise (per unit) from the farmers,” Patel said, adding that the state government provides Rs 1,100 crore as power subsidy to farmers whose tariff is measured by the horse-power of the motors they use.
Asked why the state government was releasing more connections under Jyotigram and less for agriculture, K K Bajaj, a veteran energy expert, told The Indian Express, “The government is clearing less number of applications for agricultural usage because they will then be forced to increase the power subsidy. Though agriculture consumes 30 per cent of power in the state, the revenue recovery is just 19 per cent.”