Report by Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC) correspondent
The government has been planning to remove all subsidies on supply of power, including to farmers, small households, public services, etc. through various means. One of the steps planned is the installation of 25 crore smart meters all over the country. Smart meters will enable a power company to stop and start power supply to a consumer sitting in their office. These meters will also enable the power company to make electricity supply into a pre-paid service like mobile telephone service. People will have to pay in advance for getting electricity and the moment the pre-paid amount is exhausted, power supply will stop. The government claims the aim of smart meters is to reduce theft and losses but people have realised what the real purpose is.
Farmers of Punjab too have realised why the government wants to install smart meters. They are opposing the attempts of the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) to instal smart meters. At many places, the farmers have removed the meters and threatened to launch an agitation.
“We have got information that the government has plans to replace all these with pre-paid meters and it’s the reason that now PSPCL officers are installing smart meters. These can be converted into pre-paid meters and same will be done across Punjab to extract money from farmers. We will not allow smart meters at our house,” said a leader of a farmers’ union.
“Three days back when PSPCL officers came to install smart meters in our area, we did not allow them. We also removed one smart meter installed by them and deposited that into the grid. We will not allow the installation of any smart meter,” said another leader.
Farmers in Punjab also alleged that the PSPCL officers were threatening poor families of disconnecting power supply and trying to forcibly install smart meters.
The total cost for installation of smart meters is reported to be of Rs.5768 crores for which PSPCL has been given a loan by Power Finance Corporation and a grant of Rs.875 crores by central government. It is almost certain that cost of smart meters will be recovered by PSPCL from consumers.
Consumers in other states too have to be watchful about attempts of their distribution companies to install smart meters and oppose it.