The federal government, in a bid to reduce subsidy on farmers, is expected to increase electricity price by Rs2 per unit for tube wells used for watering crops.
“We are negotiating with farmers on an increase in power tariff on agriculture tube wells after three months,” Abid Sher Ali, State Minister for Water and Power, said while talking to The Express Tribune.
The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) set average tariff at Rs16 per unit for the consumers, but for farmers it could be fixed at Rs12.30 per unit, he said.
In September 2013, the government announced a single electricity slab for the agriculture sector at Rs10.30 per unit, which would last until the end of June this year. In the meantime, the government would bear a subsidy of Rs23 billion on power charges.
Before that, the farmers had fiercely resisted an exorbitantly high tariff, arguing the previous government set the price without taking them into confidence. The Pakistan Kisan Ittehad launched a protest drive and the farmers stopped paying electricity bills. They have not cleared their bills for nine months.
As the tariff agreement has now ended, the government and Kisan Ittehad are now engaged in talks to forge a new deal. The government has also decided to waive mark-up on installments of power bills, which are outstanding because of the tariff dispute, officials say.
The growers are pressing the government to continue to charge the existing tariff of Rs10.30 per unit, but the latter is eager to increase the price on the ground that it could not afford the subsidy any more.
In protest against the move, the Pakistan Kisan Ittehad has planned to stop paying electricity bills until the time the subsidy is revived. It has also threatened to launch a “court arrest” movement if the demand is turned down.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2014.
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