Maharashtra farmers get Rs 17,000cr energy invoice reduction for now

MUMBAI: The state has decided to stay recovery of power bills run up by farmers given their current hardships, chief minister told the assembly on Thursday. Outstanding dues for power bills of agricultural pumps amount to Rs 17,000 crore. The CM also assured that power connections would not be cut off on account of unpaid bills.
The relief is the third such move aimed at providing relief to the farm sector after the loan waiver and the assurances made following the ‘long march’ to Mumbai by tribals and marginal farmers in north . The earlier two announcements are expected to add up to concessions worth Rs 25,000-35,000 crore which would benefit more than 50 lakh farmers.

In the past too, recovery of power arrears from farmers have been stayed despite the directing the government to recover the dues. “In the past three years, bill recoveries had been stayed on account of the drought and other crises faced by the farm sector,” Fadnavis said.

The drive to recover dues had begun in November 2017. Around Rs 350 crore had been recovered from farmers and around 2 lakh connections were cut, officials said. Officials say agricultural tariffs in Maharashtra are among the lowest in the country.

Meanwhile, Fadnavis also said that the state would pay the power bills due from gram panchayats. This pertains mainly to bills for streetlights, officials said.

NCP leader Ajit Pawar had opposed the recovery drive, alleging that power connections of even those farmers who had paid their bills had been cut. “The farmers are being charged the wrong amount. Those who have paid are also facing power being cut off. This is creating a lot of unhappiness,” Pawar said.

Meanwhile, the state government has also decided to ask the Centre for Rs 3,373 crore under the National Disaster Relief Fund to compensate cotton farmers affected by the pink bollworm pest attack and a pest attack on the paddy crop. Earlier, the amount sought was Rs 2,425 crore.

“Earlier farmers who suffered more than a 33% crop loss were being considered for NDRF assistance. Now assistance will be based on panchanamas that record a more than 33% loss. We have taken the sentiments of public representatives into account and made this change,” revenue minister Chandrakant Patil told the state assembly.

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