The Andhra Pradesh government, as part of the power sector reforms initiated by the Centre, has proposed to affix “smart meters” to all agricultural connections.
The new meters will record data on electricity consumption every 15 minutes, and the government will credit the farmer’s bank account with the amount of the bill. The farmer can then pay the bill to the relevant power distribution company (discom).
While the free power supply for nine hours will continue, albeit after being routed through a direct bank transfer (DBT), farmers are apprehensive that the government will make them pay for the installation of the new meters. The farmers are also doubtful whether they will receive the electricity bill DBT without any hiccups or conditions.
Farmers unions supported by the Left and the Congress have staged demonstrations at a few places in the state opposing the new meters.
So what is it that the government aims to achieve?
The government wants to understand exactly how much power is consumed by the farm sector.
At present, the government pays a fixed sum to the discoms for free power supply to farmers. But discoms often complain that they are in losses due to the subsidy given to the farm sector without any clarity on how much power is being used.
The new meters planned by the government will generate electricity bills, which the government will credit to the farmer’s bank account, after which the farmer will be able to pay the bill.
While this will clear the accounts of the discoms, with the installation of the smart meters, the load on transformers can be determined, and substations can adjust to the requirements.
According to Ajeya Kallam, Principal Advisor to the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, the supply of electricity can be tracked by installing meters to motors, and any problems identified in the supply of electricity can be rectified. Fixing the meters will ensure future short circuits and damage in transformers can be prevented. The discoms will set up the meters, switches, and earth wires.
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What does the government say about the farmers’ apprehensions?
The government says that there will be no burden on the farmers. Energy Minister Balineni Srinivas Reddy has said that farmers don’t have to pay anything for the smart meters. For the electricity bill DBT, the government will open bank accounts for free for the farmers.
According to Reddy, farmers will not have to pay any additional amount on any additional usage of power either. The discoms will not object to the use of 7.5 HP or 10 HP motors, because these will be regularised.
Also, the discoms will bear the cost even if the meters are short circuited, damaged, or stolen. Discoms will bear the cost for the mechanism of reading the meters as well. All unauthorised motors will be regularised.
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But given the continuing doubts among farmers, what is the government doing?
Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy on Monday (October 12) directed state electricity department officials to create awareness among the farmers that the new electricity meters would not burden them, and would in fact pave the way for supplying nine hours of free power to farmers during daytime.
The CM said it should be widely publicised that not a single rupee’s burden will be put on farmers with the installation of the smart meters on the motors — they will only generate data on consumption and the required load of feeders.
The CM told officials to convey to the farmers that the government would directly credit the money into the farmers’ bank accounts for the power consumed by them, and they will pay the bills to the discoms.
Posters with information about the meters and nine hours of free power supply during the day are being prepared, which will be displayed in the villages. District, divisional, mandal, and village level committees will conduct extensive awareness programmes in this regard.
Officials said 14,354 linemen had been trained to create awareness among farmers on the installation of new electricity meters. The feeder capacity has been increased to 97.5%, and the remaining would be completed by November.
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