Andhra Pradesh to go ahead with the installation of meters on agri-pump sets

The TDP is vociferously opposing the installation of smart meters on pump sets, and has even smelt a scam in the procurement of these meters.

BySNV Sudhir

Published Nov 17, 2022 | 7:54 PM Updated Nov 17, 2022 | 7:54 PM

Agriculture field in Andhra

Andhra Pradesh is determined to affix smart meters on agricultural pump sets, and has revised its deadline to December, whereas the neighbouring Telugu state Telangana has opposed the plan that is being promoted by the Central government.

Installation of smart meters is being vociferously opposed by the TDP and, in fact, the Opposition has also smelt a scam in the procurement of these meters.

At the party’s Mahanadu event held in May in Ongole, TDP supremo N Chandrababu Naidu vowed that he would not allow meters to be installed.

He also warned that the party would step up the stir against these meters, saying that such a move was nothing but compromising the government’s free power scheme.

While the state government initially planned to complete the process of fixing meters to at least 18 lakh pump sets across the state by June, the plan was delayed due to several reasons, including procurement and other logistical issues.

Recently, the state’s Energy Department sent instructions to the discoms in the state to complete the process by December.

The government will be spending around ₹6,000 for each meter and ₹26,000 for maintenance for five years.

According to the plan, the amount related to the power consumed by the agriculture pump sets calculated by the meters would be transferred to the accounts of the farmers, which would in turn be transferred to the discoms.

The government is expected to open separate accounts that would be restricted only to making payments to the discoms, and there would be no possibility to withdraw the amount from the accounts or adjust by banks for any other dues.

Centre to enhance FRBM limit

Under the Atmanirbhar package, the Centre has offered to increase the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) limit — to states to raise loans — by 0.5 percent of the GSDP if the states instal meters for agriculture pump sets and introduce Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) in the free power scheme in five years: from 2020-21 to 2024-25.

The Andhra Pradesh government can raise additional loans of ₹5,000 crore every year, totalling ₹25,000 crore in five years, as it agreed to instal meters to agriculture pump sets and is also briskly going ahead with its plan.

Telangana bitterly criticised Andhra Pradesh’s move to fix smart meters to agriculture pump sets.

In one instance, Telangana Finance Minister T Harish Rao openly said Andhra Pradesh had conceded to the Centre on smart meters for additional financial assistance at the cost of farmers, whereas the Telangana government was pro-farmer and would not install these meters.

Along with the benefit of an increase in the FRBM limit, the Andhra Pradesh government has also been claiming that the meters would ensure the arrest of pilferage of power.  A pilot project on the installation of meters was taken up in Srikakulam.

The DBT of free power subsidy for agricultural connections linked with the installation of meters to pump sets was implemented on a pilot basis in the Srikakulam district.

Around 101.51 MU of electricity was consumed over 26,083 connections in the district in the 2020–21 financial year.

The connections were increased to 28,393 in the 2021-22 financial year, but the consumption was limited to 67.76 MU with savings of 33.75 MU due to the meters and the DBT scheme.

Explaining the necessity of installing meters for agriculture connections, the Andhra Pradesh Energy Minister Peddireddy Ramachandra Reddy, in one of the review meetings with the staff, said that farmers would know to what extent they were using the free power and how much was being spent for it.

“This would prevent the power utilities from transferring their losses — accumulated due to various reasons — to farmers’ subsidy accounts and ensure transparency with regard to power purchases, wastage, and supply losses. Besides, the quality of power supply to agriculture connections would improve,” he said.

TDP smells a scam

Apart from saying that the installation of meters would restrict the farmers from utilising free power schemes, the TDP has alleged that there was a scam in the procurement of the meters.

Party spokesperson Kommareddy Pattabhiram has said that the Andhra Pradesh government opened the doors for a huge scandal in the name of purchasing meters for pump sets for agriculture.

A few days ago, Pattabhiram told reporters that a plan was formulated to purchase each agricultural water meter for a whopping ₹35,000.

“It is ridiculous that the TDP, which had once vehemently opposed the free power scheme, is now talking against the installation of meters to pump sets,” AP Agriculture Mission Vice-Chairman MVS Nagireddy told South First.

“The Basheerbagh incident during the TDP regime, in which several people were killed in a firing, is still fresh in our minds. No farmer is opposing smart meters. Only a handful of them, who have an allegiance to the TDP and the Left parties are opposing the meters,” he added.

“It will only benefit the farmers from the power going to waste and the discoms and state government. Genuine farmers understand this and only those few who are involved in power theft are opposing smart meters,” said Nagireddy.