Lucknow: In a bid to woo farmers, who held a year-long protest against the three farm laws, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had promised to give free electricity to farmers for irrigation and grants to set up borewells, tube-wells, ponds and tanks if it returns to power in Uttar Pradesh. However, on Wednesday, Uttar Pradesh energy minister Arvind Kumar Sharma made it clear that the government will not provide free power supply to farmers for using private tube wells to irrigate their crops.
On the third day of the monsoon session of the state legislative Assembly, Sharma gave this information in response to a question by Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) member Ajay Kumar.
Kumar had asked whether the government would consider providing free electricity for private tube-wells to reduce the cost of crops and increase the income of the state’s farmers and, if not, why? Responding to this, the minister said that to reduce the cost, only Rs 85 per horsepower/month is being charged from farmers, against the prevailing rates of electricity of Rs 720/horsepower/month.
By doing so, a discount of 88.19% is being provided to agricultural consumers on the electricity rates. Sharma added that in such a situation, there is no question of providing free electricity to farmers for private tube wells.
In its manifesto — “Lok Kalyan Sankalp Patra 2022” – the BJP had promised to give free electricity to farmers for agriculture in the next five years. Besides Formulation of Minimum Support Price (MSP) for wheat and rice and Rs 5,000 crore to be spent on modernisation of sugarcane mills. Payment to sugarcane farmers within 14 days was promised, and, in case of delay, payment was to be done with interest.
Farmers’ unions, including Samyukta Kisan Morcha and Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) and All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), said farmers would be left with no option but to resume their agitation if the Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government continues to renege on the promises made to farmers during Assembly elections.
Mukut Singh, general secretary of AlKS, UP chapter, slammed the BJP manifesto, calling it a “bundle of lies”, and said the party has only repeated the promises it made in 2017 and 2022 but did not fulfil. He accused the government of not fulfilling its poll promise of providing free electricity to farmers besides addressing the issue of rising power tariffs and erratic supply in villages.
“Farmers have been cheated again as neither the MSP nor free power supply is given to the farmer despite both being in BJP’s manifesto during Assembly polls. Even Uttar Pradesh has the most expensive power tariff for farmers from all over the country,” Singh told NewsClick.
Meanwhile, farmers are now gearing up for another round of confrontation with the government, informed the AIKS general secretary.
“A Rajya Sammelan will be organised from October 2-4 in Bhadohi, where farmers from across the state will be gathered. We will expose the government and how they misled farmers ahead of the Assembly elections. Later, farmers will reach Lucknow to gherao Raj Bhawan on November 26. Also, we will burn effigies of the ruling government over the Lakhimpur Kheri incident and demand to withdraw the cases lodged against farmers,” he informed.
It must be noted that the state government had announced a 50% reduction in tariff just before the UP Assembly polls. As per its directions, a tariff of Rs 2/unit on metered pumps was to be reduced to Re 1/unit, and on the unmetered pumps, Rs 170/HP was to be reduced to Rs 85. Farmers claimed that the government did not keep up its promise.
BKU leader Rakesh Tikait told NewsClick that the government promised free electricity to farmers during its election campaign, but now it was installing meters at their tube-wells and houses. He asked how the government could give free electricity after installing meters and accused it of exploiting farmers by increasing their tube-well load from 10 horsepower to 23 horsepower.
Accusing the government of presenting fake data, he further added that more than Rs 4,000 crore was due on sugar mills in western Uttar Pradesh, and the government was claiming to fulfil its promises.
A senior farm leader and member of SKM committee Uttar Pradesh, Tajinder Singh Virk, told NewsClick, “If the government could betray us from its promises, we can also hit the road for our rights. Uttar Pradesh will witness a massive movement this month against the government cheating.”