Bargarh farmers suspend protest against TPWODL

The farmers had been protesting by dumping their electricity meters at TPWODL offices, citing issues such as the need for the replacement of old cables.
Image used for representation
Image used for representationPhoto | Express Illustration

BARGARH; Farmers’ protest against Tata Power Western Odisha Distribution Limited (TPWODL) in Bargarh district was paused on Monday following intervention from the district administration. The farmers had been protesting by dumping their electricity meters at TPWODL offices, citing issues such as the need for replacement of old cables, voltage fluctuations, frequent power cuts, and hefty power bills.

The protest began on May 18, under the aegis of Barapahad Krushak Sangathan in Ambabhona block, where farmers dumped their meters outside the junior engineer’s office during a bike rally. Another protest was planned by farmers under the Bhatli Krushak Sangathan on Monday, but it has been postponed following a meeting with district administrative officials.

In the meeting, which included Tata Power authorities and farmer representatives, the administration requested the farmers to suspend their protest for at least 15 days, until after the elections and the formation of a new government. The administration assured that their concerns would be addressed, including the replacement of old cables, addressing voltage fluctuations, reducing power cuts, and reconsidering hefty power bills. Farmers were also promised that their demand for the waiver of bills for farming purposes and opposition to the installation of smart meters would be considered.

Following the discussion, the farmers agreed to postpone their protest till June 17. However, they also threatened that if their pending electricity bills are not waived off during the period, they will dump the electric meters thereafter.

Farmer leader, Ramesh Mahapatra, alleged, “We have been fighting since long demanding waiver of electricity bills for farming purposes and complained against the autocracy of the Tata Power many times. In absence of any action, we had to resort to such an extreme mode of protest.” We have planned to replicate similar protests in others parts of the district, he added.

Head of Corporate Communication for TPWODL, Manoj Pattnayak said, “The installation of smart meters is subject to the mandate of the Government of India. In fact, the process has been delayed in Odisha. The smart meters are being installed as per instructions and agreed terms of the government and it is beyond our control to stop its implementation.”

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The New Indian Express