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Punjab: Farmers question PSPCL as frequent power cuts, delayed repairs render tubewells dry

Pal Singh Daula, a farmer from Daula Singhwal village in Sunam, Sangrur district, said that in their village, the power supply lines and transformers recently got badly damaged due to strong winds, and they haven’t been repaired for five days.

Written by Anju Agnihotri Chaba | Jalandhar |
June 23, 2021 2:19:19 am
Farmers at a Bathinda village show the paddy fields that have gone dry. (Express photo)

DESPITE THE Punjab State Power Corporation Limited’s promise (PSPCL) to provide 8-hour uninterrupted power supply to tubewells throughout paddy season, which began June 10, farmers across several villages are not only facing power cuts but also frequent faults in supply lines which have not been repaired for 4-5 days. While some farmers are getting these repaired from private electricians and bearing the expenditure, others are having to use generators to ensure their paddy crop gets enough water.

Pal Singh Daula, a farmer from Daula Singhwal village in Sunam, Sangrur district, said that in their village, the power supply lines and transformers recently got badly damaged due to strong winds, and they haven’t been repaired for five days. “We had to resort to a dharna at the office of the XEN (executive engineer), PSPCL, but he got his office locked up before we reached it on June 19. “What kind of public servants are they when they have no concern for the problems of the people?” asked Daula.

“Our paddy got dried completely while our tubewells are not running for five days,” said he, adding, “When the faults are not repaired for 5-7 days at a stretch, then what is the point of the government’s claim of providing 8 hours power supply to farmers. Power officials’ phones usually come switched off.”

Paddy crop needs puddling of fields and at least 4-5 inches of stagnant water at the time of transplanting. Moreover, the field requires 2-3 inches of stagnant water continuously for the next 4-5 weeks to avoid germination of weeds as stagnant water acts as a herbicide.

In Kanakwal village of Sangrur too, farmers faced the same problem. The fault was not repaired for five days after which they hired a private electrician to get it repaired and had to bear the expenditure.

“We are arranging private electricians and farmers are running generator sets to run the tubewells so that paddy fields do not turn dry, but it is a very costly affair as generators consume 6-7 liters diesel per hour and one litre diesel costs over Rs 82,” said Rimpa Singh of Sangrur, a small farmer.

Balwinder Singh, a farmer from Bishankot village in Gurdaspur district, said that strong winds are uprooting supply lines. “In our village, power supply was restored five days after a storm. Paddy sowing got delayed and there was damage to power supply lines due to strong winds,” he added.

Sukhdev Singh of Chugha Kalan village in Bathinda said his paddy crop sown on four acres is yet to be watered due to irregular power supply.

Ex-sarpanch Mander Singh Dalhiwal of Jhumba village said he has to sow paddy on 35 acres taken on lease, while panchayat member Kartar Singh has sown paddy on seven acres, which is going dry.

In Bathinda, BKU (Ugrahan) district leader Jagsir Singh said that in their village, seven hours of power is being supplied against eight hours and whenever there is a fault — which is quite common — no one comes to repair it for 4-5 days.

“The complaints are not being addressed in time. We are left with no option but to organise a dharna,” he added.

“When power supply is short, puddling of fields is not taking place and labour is also sitting idle,” said Jagsir, adding that this is the story of all nearby villages.

Satnam Singh, a farmer from Jalandhar’s Kangniwal village, said helpline numbers and complaint centres are highly unresponsive.

A senior officer in the PSPCL said that the infrastructure of power supply is quite fragile in the state and even medium velocity winds create havoc for small transformers, which are placed on a single pole in several parts of the state. “We switch off the supply lines even if a small duration storm hits any part of the state as these are standing guidelines for us,” said a junior engineer (JE) on condition of anonymity, adding that there is huge shortage of staff in the department.

“When there is shortage of staff, replacing weak infrastructure with a stronger one or with an underground cable system can provide some relief not only to the consumers but also to the power department, which is facing huge losses due to damage,” said a senior PSPCL officer.

PSPCL Chairman cum Managing Director A Venu Prasad could not be reached for comment.

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