The farmers in the state of Karnataka receive only six hours of agricultural electricity that has hampered their business.
Most of the fields are drying since the state has been affected due to drought for decades now. According to a report from the Business Line, the state was declared to be severe drought affected along with six other states. Water is a crucial factor in agriculture. An issue which has been addressed and discussed time and again. However, there is another fact that affects agriculture severely which is electricity.
Each state in the country is bound to deliver certain hours of electricity for agricultural purpose. The state of Karnataka stands lowest along with the state of Rajasthan. Both the state delivers six hours of electricity which is the lowest in the country. Considering the fact that 69 percent of Karnataka is rural, the electricity supply is extremely low. According to data from the Central Electricity Authority, the state of Odisha, Uttarakhand and West Bengal delivers the highest amount of electricity at 24, 24 and 23 hours respectively.
Due to the shortage of water in the state, agriculture has been affected severely. The farmers are struggling to keep their crops alive. However, that is not the only problem they are facing because along with that, they also have to deal with the fact that they do not receive adequate electricity. The electricity is required in order to run the pump sets which are used to generate water.
From Saundatti taluka falling under the district of Belgaum, farmer M.M Kurla describes his ordeal of waiting late till night for the electricity to be supplied. Amidst the darkness, Kurla makes his way to the agricultural land and set the pump on in order to water the crops.
While the state of agricultural electricity is poor in Karnataka, the neighboring state of Telangana announced 24 hours of electricity for agriculture on January 1, 2018, under the leadership of chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao.
The electricity supplied by the state government is supplied for six hours only. But, sometimes it is supplied for continuously whereas on some days, it is supplied in parts. On some days, it is supplied during the day time whereas some other day, it is supplied at night. The irregularity in the timing of the electricity supply makes it further difficult for the farmers to irrigate their water as they always have to be alert.
Such uncertainty creates trouble for the farmers. The problem of water continues to haunt them. But, even if the water is available, the electricity problem creates another barrier which is hard to overcome.
Kurla who belongs from Hirekumbi village under Saundatti taluka is the owner of 10 acres land. He comments on the issue saying, “Water is an issue that everyone is aware of. Everyone knows that the state of Karnataka is affected by drought for years. There are canals around the villages which mostly remains dry. But, even if there is water in the canal, we cannot put it to use due to the lack of electricity.”
Kurla further mentions that irrigation pumps require electricity. Diesel engines are available in the market but those engines are costly. Along with that, diesel is required for which there is an extra expenditure. The farmers rely more on an electric set but they are not aware of when the electricity will kick in. Kurla says, “We have to be alert at night. It is hard to work at night. Several complain has been made to the electricity board office present at Saundatti.”
To get a better insight on the issue, the nodal officer of Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Ltd. (KPTCL) was contacted who shared the details of feeder wise electricity being supplied currently in Saundatti taluka. The taluka consists of 32 villages under the governance of 14-gram panchayats. Each taluka has a feeder of its own for agriculture purpose along with the domestic one.
The feeder data from the month of December 2018 reads an export of 5058.31 of Kilowatt (kW) as the final reading with an initial reading of 5057. 08. The consumption on a single day reads 12,000 kW. But, over the month of December, the consumption has seen a fluctuation. On some days, the number has gone as low as to 7,000 kW. Since the electricity has not been used due to irregular timing; the number went down creating a significant margin.
Bailesh Tegginakeri, the nodal officer commented on the issue saying, “We have struggled to provide electricity for agricultural purpose compared to other states. But, it is not an easy process to supply electricity. The hydroelectricity programme that the state has is a fail show due to the lack of rainfall. Most of the dams and reservoirs are dry so there is no question of generating electricity from there.”
Bailesh further mentions that the first priority is to supply electricity for domestic use and commercial buildings. Farming is an important sector but there is not just enough electricity generation. The electricity that the state provides is free of cost.
Bailesh points at the windmills installed on the hills near the station and said, “There are ways to divert electricity to plants and substation. You see those windmills installed are owned and run by private companies. The electricity board has collaborated with them and they supply us a significant amount of electricity. But, there is a budget and we cannot afford to buy more from them. If we plan to buy more from them then the cost for per unit of electricity will go up.”
Bailesh says that the farmers are getting a free product. If the farmers are ready to pay for the electricity, the electricity board might find a way to provide more. But, they cannot do that due to the losses they have faced because of drought.
Bailesh also acknowledges that there is no particular schedule for the supply of electricity because it is not in the hand of the local plant or substation. It totally depends on when the extra amount of electricity is generated. When the substation in the area receives the electricity, they divert it to the feeders present in the villages.
The condition of electricity is poor in the state but the state of Karnataka is one of the top states when it comes to the generation of renewable energy. According to an article by the Quartz India, Karnataka has overtaken the state of Tamil Nadu in generating renewable energy. The state has an installed capacity of 12.3 gigawatts (GW) including 5 GW of solar and 4.7 GW of wind energy.
Supply of electricity is not the only problems that the farmers are facing. M.M Kurla points at another problem which is majorly caused due to the negligence of the electricity board. Whenever there is a problem with the transformer or cables, it takes around 10 days to get the repairing done irrespective of complaints.
Another farmer Santosh Yadav said that in case of a simple problem with the transformer or cable, the farmers hire a local electrician to resolve the issue. However, if the problem is complex, the electricity board is informed. But, some employees charge money from the farmers to repair the problem. Irrespective of that, the problem is not solved.
M.M Patil, another farmer who was with Santosh Yadav said, “When there is a problem like this, we rely on the canal and bring water from there using local transport like tractors or autos. If there is no water in the canal, we derive water from the lake. It is an extra workload which is time taking as well.”
Trader Chandrakant Lalge of the Saundatti APMC yard backed the farmers saying, “This is the nothing new and it will continue to exist. The farmers are trying hard to make ends meet. They do not have any other way to fight these issues. So, they fall prey to the government employee’s demands.”
Reflecting on the farmer’s problem, L.M Hosmani, the assistant agricultural officer of Saundatti said, “Electricity for agriculture is an issue. These farmers have invested their money on electrical pump sets and other equipment. If they do not get electricity at the time they need, their investment will be a waste. The state government should come with an alternate way to curb this problem. There could be the use of solar energy in the villages but that has not been done yet.”
Renewable energy can be the key to solve a problem like this. Karnataka, in the year 2018 had inaugurated a solar power park in the Tumkur district. Such a park can create renewable energy that can ease the problem. However, the creation of the park has to be done in every area where the problem exists. To create such solar parks, the state has to come up with adequate planning and budget to make the operation of the programme smooth.
Vivek Yadav, an entrepreneur who has worked extensively on renewable energy said, “If the generation of electricity is less then renewable can be used. Solar energy is easily available and easy to generate. What the government can do is create a centralized power bank, store the energy and then use an inverter to supply it. However, supplying is a problem as it depends on how big the area is. If a village is big, it will need more than one centralized bank or else the cost of the cable will increase. If the village is small, an individual set of panels can be provided.”