Karnataka govt may regularise 2 lakh illegal pumpsets

Karnataka govt may regularise 2 lakh illegal pumpsets

Since 2019, the government has incurred an expenditure of at least Rs 1,277.29 crore in energising illegal irrigation pumpsets

Representative Image. Credit: iStock Photo

Wary of inviting farmers’ wrath which could impact its poll prospects, the Karnataka government is likely to regularise power supply to over two lakh illegal irrigation pumpsets, even if it places an additional burden on the state’s finances already strained by the pandemic. 

“There are 2.57 lakh applications seeking regularisation of illegal connections, and the number keeps increasing,” Energy Minister V Sunil Kumar told DH

According to data tabled by Kumar in the Assembly, the government has supplied power to 22,897 illegal connections so far this year. Between 2018 and 2020, the government has regularised 4.41 lakh illegal connections under the jurisdiction of various electricity companies — Bescom, Mescom, Cesc Mysore, Hescom and Gescom.

The highest number of regularised connections are under Hescom (Hubballi), data shows. 

Also read: Withdraw Bharat Bandh call if you want farmers' welfare: Pralhad Joshi

In fact, Kumar stated the government’s stand in a written reply: “When it comes to providing electricity to farmers’ irrigation pumpsets, no distinction is made between illegal connections and new applications seeking power supply. All applications are being given electricity connections.” 

Since 2019, the government has incurred an expenditure of at least Rs 1,277.29 crore in energising illegal irrigation pumpsets.

“This is a huge burden,” a source from the Energy Department said. 

There are around 30 lakh irrigation pumpsets operated by farmers in the state. 

Without regularising the illegal connections, the government will not be able to meet its promise of providing uninterrupted 3-phase power supply for seven hours during the day. 

The irony is that Kumar himself is looking at streamlining the department.

He is pushing for a plan to install prepaid meters in government offices that owe Rs 5,792 crore in electricity dues. However, he is not keen on acting against illegal irrigation pumpsets, lest it upset farmers and impact the BJP’s poll prospects. 

In July, the government managed to convince the Centre to surrender 300 MW of power that was being supplied for Rs 5.30-Rs 6 from the NTPC to Escoms. This will lead to annual savings of Rs 650 crore, according to Kumar. 

The state produces nearly 30,000 MU power, sufficient to manage the demand. Still, it must continue to purchase power from other states due to long-term agreements that are valid till 2044. Cancelling them will lead to heavy penalties and the advocate-general has advised against any unilateral decision.

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