Challakere: The farmers in Karnataka are bearing the brunt of a twin crisis of drought and severe power scarcity this year. The state supplies just six hours of three-phased power to villages, and in a drought year, farmers in central Karnataka are a worried lot.
The farmers have no other source of water and they solely depend on pumped-up underground water. No power could mean no water and no crop.
When Shivanna, a farmer from Somaguddu village in Challakere, laid water pipes for yet another borewell, he knew he was being optimistic as the irrigation pumpsets in Karnataka are quiet 18 hours a day because of the crisis.
"We'd grown Ragi and onions but everything is now parched. There's no rain, no continuous power. Even if we pump water and store it in the tank, it seeps underground and there's little left for the crop," said Shivanna.
It's an accepted fact that power to the villager is last priority, because urban centres pay more for power, give more revenue, and pay more taxes. The power crisis in rural Karnataka could well lead to a food scarcity situation itself.
In a drought year like this one, farmers in a windmill hub are staring at a staggering 75 per cent crop loss. With not even basic infrastructure, many farmers string along their own cables on crude wooden poles, sometimes for kilometers together. However, the fact is that all this is of no use when power supply itself is rare and fluctuating.
"Why can't they look at regional requirements? Give lesser power to areas fed by dams and rivers, and more power for dryland like ours. Certainly, regions like Shimoga and Karwar don't need so much power," said S Rangaswamy, Raitha Sangha activist.
However, the government says more power leads to farmers indiscriminately exploiting underground water.
"For the last four to five years, there's no addition at all, no appreciable addition. But our requirements are that at least 1000 to 1500 mw we must have in addition to what we have," said N G Prabhakar, power expert, Federation of Karnataka Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
"Last year also, I tried that, but the problem there is actually people are grabbing under water, the ground water. That is why for next day there is no water available, the ground water is depleting," said Energy Minister Shoba Karandlaje.
The state that prides itself as an investment destination hasn't any new power projects to show for itself. Just as they say every other year, please wait.