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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Khemka flags ‘excess claims’ of discoms to ‘pad off power theft as sales to farmers’

Suggests direct water subsidy to farmers, metered power supply to all tubewells.

Written by Varinder Bhatia | Chandigarh |
February 25, 2021 9:27:04 am
Ashok Khemka, Punjab HC, central deputation, Haryana news, Indian express newsAshok Khemka

In a detailed note to the additional chief secretaries of Haryana’s power and finance departments, senior IAS officer Ashok Khemka has raised an issue of electricity distribution companies (DISCOMs) making “excess claims” to “pad off power theft as sales to farmers”.

Highlighting, the alleged “grave exaggerated claims” regarding rural energy subsidies, Khemka has asked both officials to urgently look into the matter.

In his note, Khemka stated: “HERC (Haryana Electricity Regulatory Commission) has been admitting inflated claims of discoms for Agriculture Pumpset (AP) sales to farmers, burdening the public with huge Rural Energy (RE) subsidies. This public fraud is unfortunately not contested by the government before the HERC. The great fudge enables discoms to claim over 9,200 million units as total AP sales and receive RE subsidy of INR 6,900 crore from government without murmur, helping DISCOMs to pad off power theft as sales to farmers,” Khemka wrote.

Pointing out the possible difference between the average Transmission and Distribution (T&D) losses, Khemka wrote, “the average T&D losses of the two discoms — UHBVN and DHBVN — after accounting for AP sales, are 19 per cent. If the AP sales are properly metered and accounted for at the farmer’s end, the true T&D losses of the discoms may be closer to 40 per cent”, referring to an earlier study conducted by the agriculture department wherein AP consumption was estimated at 1,115 MU in the event of no rains when crops needed maximum irrigation.

‘RE subsidy being claimed by discoms shot up by 65% in last 12 yrs’

“In the year 2007-08, the discoms were claiming RE subsidy for 5639 MU, which in the span of the last 12 years has risen steadily by 65 per cent to over 9200 MU, without change in either the gross cropped area or the cropping pattern,” he added.

The total gross area in Haryana is 23.7 lakh hectare that is irrigated by canals and 37.4 lakh hectares irrigated by tubewells. Some area is irrigated by both canals and tubewell.

Quoting the 2017-18 figures of agriculture department, Khemka wrote, “Of the 8.5 lakh tubewells in the state, 3 lakh are diesel operated and 5.5 lakh are electricity operated. It can be assumed that of the total area under tubewell irrigation, 65 per cent is covered by electric tubewell and the balance 35 per cent by diesel tubewells. That is, of the 37.4 lakh hectare of gross cropped area under tubewell irrigation, only 24.2 lakh hectare is irrigated by electric tubewells. Since the state’s cropping intensity is 185 per cent, the net area under electric tubewell is 13.1 lakh hectare. The rural energy subsidy of INR 6,900 crore to discoms imply that the annual subsidy is an astronomical INR 52,670 per hectare of area under electric tubewell irrigation, or INR 21,325 per acre per year.”

Explaining how the discoms are likely to be exaggerating figures, Khemka added, “Discoms have shown connected tubewell load of 7500 MW consuming 9200 MU during the year. If the data is indeed correct, then it implies that all electrified tubewell with total load of 7500 MW are operational for 1230 hours during the year, which is an impossibility. The following facts support the impossibility inference – A sizeable part of the connected tubewell load is non-functional for various reasons like presence of brackish groundwater. According to a Central Ground Water Board study, 45 pet cent of the area of the state is unfit for irrigation due to salinity (electrical conductivity more than 2000 micro mhos/ cm) and 10 per cent of the area is water-logged; Irrigation is required for 3-4 months during the year and power supply to AP feeders is restricted to 4-5 hours on alternate days. The claim that each and every connected tubewell runs for 1230 hours seems prima facie grossly exaggerated; Requirement of tubewell irrigation reduces in case of rains or where the area is also covered under canal irrigation”.

‘Authenticate meter readings at dedicated AP feeders’

He added, “The maximum annual AP sales of the two discoms together will not exceed 2000 MU. As a result, INR 5,000-6,000 crore of public money goes down the drain in a year due to padding off the power theft as AP sales to farmers. Public money is in effect being used to subsidise corruption in the name of subsidised sales to farmers.” The IAS officer suggested that the concerned departments must authenticate the meter readings at dedicated AP feeders and ensure that no load other than agriculture pump sets is connected to these feeders.

Khemka also suggested that to check power theft, “there is no alternative but to ensure each tubewell connection is metered like any other consumer category. And in the case of unmetered supply, the government subsidy should not be more than the schedule of water rates for canal irrigation”.

‘Pay water subsidy directly to farmers’

Khemka also suggested that water subsidy be paid direct to farmers instead of subsidising discoms that be far more equitable to small and marginal farmers.

“The public money used to subsidise discoms on account of AP sales to farmers can be used to pay directly to farmers as water subsidy. With a budget of INR 6900 crore, the state can pay a water subsidy to all areas not irrigated by canals at INR 31,000 per hectare or at INR 12,500 per acre,” he added.

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