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Telangana government launched a round-the-clock power supply

The Telangana government launched a round-the-clock power supply to the state’s 2.3 million farmers free of cost, but power experts and opposition parties said that the scheme might result in its misuse and large-scale exploitation of groundwater.

Transmission Corporation of Telangana Ltd’s chairperson and managing director D Prabhakar Rao and Southern Discom MD Raghuma Reddy formally launched the scheme at Pothaipalli village of Shamirpet mandal in Medchal Malkajgiri district at 12.01am.

Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao described the 24X7 agriculture power supply as a New Year’s gift for the farmers of the state.

“Though certain states are supplying power to farmers free of cost, it is only for a few hours; and some states are giving 24-hour power supply but for a price. Telangana is the only state which is supplying power to farmers round the clock free of cost,” he said.

The free power supply will now be available for 23 lakh agricultural pump sets.

According to Prabhakar Rao, the demand from the agriculture sector in January will be around 9,500 MW, which might go up to 11,000 MW by March.

“Our transmission and distribution system can bear the load up to 17,000 MW. We have strengthened the system at a cost of Rs 12,610 crore in the last three years,” Rao said.

Distribution companies at present are able to meet a maximum power demand of 9,500 MW to agriculture sector during peak hours of the day.

Transco officials have said that at least 1,500-2,000 MW of additional power is required to meet increasing demand and implement the free-power programme.

However, experts say the round-the-clock power supply scheme might prove counter-productive to the farming community rather than actually benefitting them.

“First of all, nobody has asked for a 24X7 power supply, since farmers do not need more than nine hours of quality power supply to the crops. Secondly, it will result in large-scale exploitation of groundwater resulting in its fast depletion,” a senior official of the Southern Discom told the Hindustan Times on condition of anonymity.

“Thirdly, it will hit small and marginal farmers with small landholdings, as big farmers draw huge water using powerful pump sets,” he added.

The official said if the power supply was given in phases it would help recharge the groundwater but if there is uninterrupted supply it will deplete faster. Since the power supply is free, there is absolutely no control on the exploitation of groundwater using agriculture pump sets, he added.