Separate agri feeder projects: Maharashtra steps on the gas

Separate agri feeder projects: Maharashtra steps on the gas

Mumbai: Maharashtra, one of the two states in western India that have embarked on an agricultural feeder separation programme in India, is fast-tracking its ambitious plan to complete the implementation of two existing projects by December next year.

A feeder separation programme essentially separates distribution of power between domestic and non-domestic users. As first reported by Mint on 24 December, six states are taking loans to separate feeds for farmers from other consumers as they try to curb misuse of power stemming from political promises of free power.

Once implemented, Maharashtra’s plan will ensure that 33,000 villages in the western state will have assured power for agricultural usage, though for a limited number of hours. While the estimated cost of the projects is Rs3,232 crore, the state has spent Rs956 crore separating the feeders. (See details)

Until “we are able to get enough power to meet our electricity demand, we needed a demand management programme to ensure that everyone gets power," says the state’s minister for power and higher education, Dilip Walse-Patil.

“Like the Jyotigram programme in Gujarat, which gives rural agricultural users power for a fixed number of hours, three-fourths of the villages in Maharashtra will get assured power once we complete the programme," claimed Ajay Bhushan Pande, managing director of Mahavitaran or the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Co. Ltd, the state government-owned power distribution company that sells electricity to most areas in the state. Gujarat completed the Jyotigram programme, the first such programme in India, in 2005.

There are 40,000 villages in Maharashtra and around 7,000 of them fall in insurgency prone areas such as Gadchiroli and Chandrapur districts. There are no power cuts in the villages in these areas and hence they are not covered by the project. Another 2,000 are tiny villages, known as wadis in the Konkan region, where power demand doesn’t exceed 60Mw and therefore no cuts are imposed. These 2,000 villages are not counted among the 40,000 villages.

Maharashtra is implementing two feeder programmes— the Rs661 crore single-phasing programme under which three-phase power connections in the rural areas will be converted to a single-phase connection. Under this programme, 13,544 villages will be covered. So far, 11,491 of them have been covered. The programme is currently behind target by three months with 3,406 villages being covered under the second phase against a target of 3, 926 villages.

Maharashtra faces a shortage of 4,000-4,500MW a day during peak hours in the agricultural season that begins in October. During this time, rural areas in Maharashtra face power cuts of up to 12 hours. In the areas where the feeder separation plan has been implemented, the cuts have been reduced to 4-6 hours.