UP: Farmers Intensify Protest Against Installation of Meters on Tubewells
Representational Image. Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Lucknow: Farmers from across Western Uttar Pradesh intensified their ongoing protest by allegedly holding government officials hostage for several hours inside the Paschim Vidyut Vitran Nigam Ltd (PVVNL) under the banner of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU). The protest is against installing electric meters on tube wells -- used mainly for irrigation purposes in the rural belt.
Protesting farmers said that this agitation is spreading fast and will soon engulf the whole of Uttar Pradesh. The government has already burnt its fingers with the farm laws, and now it has decided to install meters at tubewells, they said.
"Who gives the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath such suggestions?" they asked.
Many farmers also brought uprooted electric meters from their tube wells, dumped them on the premises of PVVNL and asked the officials to deposit them in the office.
"The government is not taking our demands seriously. As of now, we have only blocked one side of the road, but we will proceed further in the coming days if the government fails to address our demands," Naresh Tikait, president of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), told NewsClick, adding that "current government are selling the national assets built over the past seven decades to a few capitalist friends. Water, electricity, forest, land, factories, schools etc., are being sold to billionaires."
Ranveer Singh, BKU's district Baghpat president, said that officials were told about the erratic power supply in the villages and how the installation of meters would mean a manifold increase in electricity bills. Singh said that officials were told that farmers would not allow the installation of the meters on their tubewells.
Accusing the government of working against the farmers, a farmer leader in Bijnor, Ankit Tomar, told NewsClick, "Villages are already facing erratic power supply, and the installation of meters would mean a manifold increase in electricity bills. They (the Yogi govt) had promised free electricity to farmers in their 'Sankalp Patra (https://www.newsclick.in/western-UP-farmers-angry-delay-govt-fulfilling-poll-promises)', and now they are installing meters. It has been made clear to the officials that no farmer will allow the installation of the meter in their tubewells."
When asked the reason behind the protest, farmers argued that they could not bear the burden of hefty power bills with a meagre income. Earlier, a power bill would not be more than Rs 2,000/month, which has increased to Rs 10,000. There is no logic. How long will the government test the patience of farmers?
"We have not paid our sugarcane dues of the previous crushing season and now expensive electricity. How would we sustain? We can't afford to pay bills through the meter for irrigation," Singh said.
Meanwhile, Arvind Bangari, MD of PVVNL, told NewsClick, "The protesting farmers should understand that we are following the orders of the UP Electricity Regulatory Commission. Meters are being installed only to gauge the load demand and prevent damage to transformers due to overloading." He also warned that ripping off meters is a crime and can attract action.
According to Dharmendra Malik of BKU (apolitical), the electricity bill is being taken from farmers according to Rs 123/HP in Haryana and Rs 175 in UP, whereas this is free in Punjab and Tamilnadu.
"Three months ago, the State government issued an order that meters on tube wells are being installed only to gauge the load demand for irrigation by farmers, and they will not be charged as per meter, but the government is fooling us."
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