does this mean, in financial terms? Until May this year,
the state exchequer used to bear a cost of Rs. 609 crores
so that farmers could obtain electricity at subsidized rates.
Supplying the same electricity, but completely free-of-cost,
would additionally place a load of around Rs. 436 crores
on the state. The summed figure of Rs. 1045 crores is a
recurring, yearly cost. Also, the government's decision
to waive the past dues of farmers would bring an extra,
one-time burden of Rs. 1192 crores. While these numbers
might seem a bit high, we need to put them in proper perspective:
the daily expenditure of our state government alone is on
the order of Rs. 125 crores. In that case, the yearly cost
of giving free power to the farming sector would amount
to only around ten days of total government expenditure!
the question of free electricity is not merely one related
to economic or financial policies. It is indeed much more
serious than that.
the year 2003, only around 47% of the nearly 44,000 million
units of electricity purchased by the APTransco was metered
and billed. In other words, less that half of the total
electricity consumed in our state last year, can actually
be accounted for. What about the remaining? It is lumped
together under the broad categories of agricultural consumption
and Transmission-Distribution (T&D) losses. Since agricultural
consumption is not measured (i.e. metered), no one really
knows how much power is really used in the farms and how
much is 'lost'. The unmeasured term 'T&D losses' is
generally used as a convenient carpet under which power
losses due to mismanagement, corruption, theft and avoidable
technical losses are all dutifully swept. For every single
percentage of power loss, our state government loses revenue
of Rs. 100 crores. However, some political, bureaucratic
and business interests have a vested interest in maintaining
this status-quo. For instance, under the present system,
a low level engineer in charge of operations in energy distribution
rakes in an astronomical sum of Rs. 2 lakh every month!
Such bad governance practices lead to an unnecessary wastage
of over 20% of the total electricity annually consumed in
Andhra Pradesh. Any modern system should be able to completely
avoid this enormous loss.
one of the immediate tasks of our government is to carefully
monitor the genuine power consumption in the farmlands so
that the T&D losses can be accurately measured and minimized.
Even the Central Electricity Act (2003) mandates that every
service must be metered by the year 2005. But, metering
of power consumption by farmers could be perceived as a
politically difficult measure to initiate. That is why,
the government must explain to the general public and the
farmers, with complete clarity and honesty, the importance
of monitoring the consumption of free agricultural power.
It must be unambiguously conveyed that the intent of monitoring
and metering of free power is only to improve the T&D
service delivery and not harassing an individual farmland
supply of cost-free electricity to farmers should not remain
an end in itself. It should be used as a valuable opportunity
to initiate much-needed improvements to the T&D system
and also in the overall power sector. There are other important
benefits: monitoring of agricultural power consumption would
also act as an incentive to save both energy and water.
Currently, the efficiency of our agricultural pumpsets is
notoriously low, so the farmers tend to use higher power
motors. Not surprisingly, groundwater is depleted faster
than the borewells are naturally recharged. An improved
T&D system could therefore, also help avoid potentially
severe environmental consequences caused by wasteful energy
use and water depletion.
To sum up, the metering of agricultural consumption must
have three goals: proper energy auditing and improvement
of distribution system; elimination of wastage at the farmers'
level; and prevention of overexploitation of ground water.