The government has asked power supply officials not to pull the plug on agricultural consumers over the pending dues.
Mumbai: The state government is planning to waive the outstanding electricity bills of farmers amounting to Rs 22,000 crore, close on the heels of its ongoing loan relief programme.
The government has asked power supply officials not to pull the plug on agricultural consumers over the pending dues. Sources in the energy department said that the waiver is likely to be a conditional one.
Relief on the power bills has been a key demand of the agitating farmers. Tribal people, who walked all the way from Nashik to Mumbai last month, had also raised a similar demand. Bowing to pressure, the government has decided to waive some amount of the bills and asked the finance department to look into the matter.
Earlier governments had also waived electricity dues with certain conditions. When the BJP was in power, late leader Gopinath Munde had implemented a similar scheme, while Nationalist Congress Party’s Ajit Pawar extended the relief to farmers.
“The earlier governments have also given waiver or concession in the electricity bill to the farmers but with some conditions. The farmers have to pay the basic amount of the bill in installments like 50 per cent. Then delayed payment charges (DPC) and interest on arrears would be waived completely. There are over 40 lakh consumers using agricultural pumps in the state and some have not paid the bills from the beginning,” an official from Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company (MAHADISCOM) said.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had in the Assembly assured the farmers of relief measures after tribal farmers’ march. “We have been told to look into the financial implications of the concession in electricity bills for the farmers. We are talking with the energy department and MAHADISCOM about the same. The finance department will work out possible burden on the exchequer from the concession,” an official from the finance department said.
The earlier concessions had cost the government around Rs 5,000 crore to Rs 6,000 crore. After giving loan waiver of about Rs 20,000 crore, the biggest challenge before the government would be to manage the financial balance, the official added.
As per the records of MAHADISCOM, 38,17,000 agriculture pump consumers were in default as of February 2018. The principal arrears are estimated at Rs 12,000 crore, Interest on the arrears amount to Rs 9,000 crore taking the total dues to more than Rs 21,000 crore.