Last Updated: June 05, 2023, 20:04 IST
The implementation of free electricity bills in Karnataka is a hotly-debated topic. The state government, in a recent press meeting, announced that households can now avail of 200 units of free power from July 1, if the electricity consumption is below 200 units. But you will be amazed to hear that the free electricity scheme continues to be upheld in Karnataka’s Shirola village of Bagalkote district. The villagers have refrained from paying electricity bills since 2001. Yes, for 22 years, Shirola residents have not paid the electricity bills.
Shirola is known for its sugarcane plantations. In 2001, there emerged a lack of electricity supply to run the agricultural pump sets. The water motor was only turned on when there was a 440-watt power supply. But the authorities provided only 250 watts of electricity. As a result of the volt imbalance, the motors used in farms got damaged and burned.
According to a report by Vijay Karnataka, when the villagers asked for help from the Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (BESCOM), they were first asked to pay the previous bill. Only then would the authorities repair their motor pumps, the report added. Soon a protest started, under the leadership of farmer activists Nanjundaswamy and Ramesh Gadannavar. They decided that they would repair the motor pump sets themselves, without the help of anyone. Along with that, the Shirola villagers added that until they are not provided with sufficient electricity they would not pay the bill.
Other farmers who learned about the protests joined the Shirola farmers, helping them repair the motors. The previous bill was compelled to get waived as the campaign gained momentum. Unable to quash the protests, the government decided to provide free electricity up to 10 HP to the farmers’ pump sets.
Another fierce protest broke out in 2006 where the farmers claimed that the government did not give appropriate prices to farmers’ crops but charged them for electricity. So, they do not pay the house bill as well.
Till today, this tradition of non-payment of bills continues and shows no signs of simmering down anytime soon. In the wake of the 200-unit free electricity bill announcement, the fearless fight put up by the Shirola farmers has come to the fore again.