Maharashtra Mulls Free Power To Farmers

Mumbai, July 28 | Updated: Jul 29 2004, 06:28am hrs
The Congress-led government in Maharashtra on Wednesday asked a three-member committee to gauge the impact of free power supply to farmers and its implications on the western grid. The committee, comprises principal secretary (finance) Chitkala Zutshi, principal secretary (energy) BP Pandey and the debt-ridden Maharashtra State Electricity Boards chairman Jayant Kawale.

The committee is expected to submit its findings in the next meeting of state cabinet scheduled for August 4.

Chief minister Sushil-kumar Shinde at the weekly cabinet briefing confirmed that these officials had been asked to examine the impact of free power supply to farmers in the state. He made it clear that the state cabinet meeting did not take any decision in this regard.

Mr Shinde said that it was a question of political will and his government would make necessary efforts in this regard. Mr Shindes announcement is in response to the Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackerays pre-election rhetoric that Sena-BJP combine would provide free power to farmers which have been reeling severe financial stress.

However, the state industries minister Dr Patangrao Kadam wanted to know why the cabinet note in this regard was not moved at the meeting.

State finance minister Jayant Patil opined that the issue be studied properly before taking any concrete decision.

State government sources told FE that it would have to make an extra provision of nearly Rs 700 crore in addition to the present subsidy level if the decision to supply free power to farmers was taken. However, sources warned that it may lead to unrestricted demand for power which may result in unrestricted load shedding in the state.

Moreover, free power supply would also lead to a problem of rationing and whether it would be technically feasible for the state MSEB to do so.