Amaravati, Sep 1 (PTI): Andhra Pradesh is set to introduce the Agriculture Electricity Cash Transfer Scheme from the 2021-22 financial year that will virtually do away with the free power supply to the farm sector, though the government maintained that it will foot the entire bill amounting to about Rs 8,400 crore per annum.
The government will install smart meters to all agricultural power connections as part of the Centre-suggested reforms that it agreed to implement for a two per cent hike in FRBM Act borrowing limit that will entail an additional loan of about Rs 20,000 crore to the state during the current fiscal, highly-placed official sources said.
The state government will have to spend an estimated Rs 1,500 crore to install smart meters to the agriculture power connections.
The free power to the farm sector was introduced by late Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy in May 2004 and subsequent governments continued it.
The incumbent Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy government too claimed that it was developing 10,000 MW solar power plants to ensure uninterrupted free power to the farm sector for the next 30 years.
It was also spending Rs 1,700 crore to improve the transmission system so as to supply power for nine hours during daytime.
Under the new scheme, farmers will be required to open exclusive bank accounts into which the government will credit the monthly power bill amount.
Farmers will then have to pay the monthly power charge to the respective Power Distribution Company, according to the guidelines for the scheme issued on Tuesday.
'The farmers need not pay a single rupee from their pockets,' Energy Secretary N Srikant said in an order on Tuesday.
The government, however, came out with varying figures on the number of agriculture power connections in the state.
While the 2020-21 Agriculture Budget as well as the 2019-20 Socio-Economic Survey said there were 18.72 lakh agricultural power connections by the end of March, the latest order issued by the Energy Secretary put the figure at 17.55 lakh.
Agriculture Minister K Kanna Babu maintained that there would not be any change in the existing free power scheme.
'The procedure may be changing but not the scheme,' he said.PTI DBV BN WELCOME BN WELCOME