The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Tuesday urged farmers in Gujarat farmers not to pay their electricity bills, if the state administration, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, fails to ensure continuous power supply in the ongoing summer months. AAP leaders also threatened a chakka jam on national highways if the state administration doesn’t heed the opinion of farmers.
The protests stem from state energy minister Kanu Desai’s recent decision to supply only six hours of energy in the coming week. Farmer organisations in Gujarat have been up in protest, demanding regular supply of power for the sake of irrigation. “I urge upon the farmers of Gujarat to not pay their energy bills till the state government assures uninterrupted supply of power. Farmers should not allow officials from the energy department or representatives from power corporations to access their villages or farmlands. If a power company in Gujarat cuts a farmer’s electrical supply, AAP leaders would go to the farmer’s home and restore the power,” farmer- activist and senior AAP leader Sagar Rabari said at a press conference on Tuesday at the AAP headquarters in Ahmedabad.
“The state administration has chosen to limit the amount of electricity available to farmers from eight to six hours in the middle of this summer season. Farmers will be unable to harvest their summer crops due to frequent disruptions in energy supply. Fodder crops are planted for use in the animal husbandry business during this season. Lack of cattle fodder supply will further result in an increase in their market price,” explained Rabari. Given that Gujarat is a power-surplus state, Rabari questioned the state government’s six-hour supply decision. “Farmers in Gujarat used to get 16 hours of power supply in the late 1990s, but that has been decreased to eight hours since 2003,” he said at the conference, “The government has now decided to cut it down to six hours per day. The AAP is standing shoulder to shoulder with farmers, animal husbandry workers, and Gujarat’s rural residents, who account for 56 per cent of the state’s population. Many other Indian states provide free electricity to farmers, so why not Gujarat? Why is the state government intentionally providing farmers less supply hours while we are a power surplus state?” Rabari asked.