Lawmakers face farmers' wrath | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 07, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, April 07, 2012

Frequent Power Outage

Lawmakers face farmers' wrath

When the rain started yesterday, Awami League lawmaker Solaiman Haque Joarder breathed a sigh of relief. Farmers of his constituency in Chuadanga would not grumble about hourly power cuts, he thought. For a day at least.
"So I felt relaxed and had a sound sleep after many days," the ruling party MP told The Daily Star yesterday afternoon.
As it rained in his area too, Magura AL lawmaker Biren Shikder felt himself a much happier and lighter man than he had been in the past few days.
But many of their party colleagues, especially those elected from northern districts and Mymensingh, were not that "blessed". It did not rain in their constituencies and complaints about power outages kept coming.
With the severe power shortage badly hampering irrigation, many such "unlucky" MPs of the AL-led ruling alliance have been facing farmers' wrath in their areas.
Lawmakers, particularly those in the northern region which is considered the main food pocket in the country, fear that this year's Boro production will fall due to the power crisis.
The production was around 1.86 crore tonnes last year.
With the summer approaching, the demand for power has reached about 6,700 megawatts a day. But the production hovers around 5,000MW to 5,200MW since November last year.
The demand has soared as farmers alone require around 1,500MW electricity for irrigation in this Boro season.
According to a government announcement, farmers are to run irrigation pumps from 11:00pm to 7:00am every day. But they rarely get uninterrupted power supply.
Local MPs say farmers can run their pumps for four hours at best -- and that too not at a stretch.
Over the last few days, The Daily Star talked to 25 MPs from Panchagarh, Thakurgaon, Kurigram, Lalmonirhat, Dinajpur, Nilphamari, Gaibandha, Rangpur, Bogra, Sirajganj, Naogaon, Natore, Rajshahi, Kushtia, Chuadanga, Magura, Mymensingh and Brahmanbaria.
They described how farmers are suffering from the power crisis and seeking remedy from them.
AKM Mayeedul Islam, Jatiya Party MP of Kurigram, said he had never experienced such acute power shortage in his life. "If the situation remains unchanged, angry farmers may lay siege to local power offices."
One such siege by farmers indeed took place in the middle of last month in Nilphamari where local leaders and activists of AL took part to sympathies with the farmers, AL lawmaker Asaduzzaman Noor said.
In efforts to soothe farmers' anger, lawmakers had been in constant touch with the Rural Electrification Board (REB), which supplies power in rural areas, asking it to ensure nonstop power supply for irrigation.
But the REB could do little as it did not get electricity from the Power Development Board in line with the demand.
“I was so fed up with the electricity crisis that I left the matter to Allah,” said Brahmanbaria MP Shah Jikrul Ahmed.
The Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal lawmaker added: “People and farmers of my area are heavily criticising me for electricity crisis. Sometimes they even hurl abuses at me but I cannot leave the area as my home is there.”
The meteorological department said it rained in 19 districts of Dhaka and the southern belt. Bogra is the only northern district to experience rain -- just 8mm. Sylhet and Feni saw 18mm and 25mm rain.
Abul Kalam Mallik, an assistant meteorologist, forecast a few light showers in some parts of the country in the next few days.
"If the power situation does not improve, I fear farmers will cut paddy cultivation in the next season and will turn to other crops that need less irrigation," said AL MP Dabirul Islam of Thakurgaon.
And if things do not better, people will not vote for the AL in the next general election, he added.
Gaibandha AL MP Monowar Hossain Chowdhury has been urging domestic consumers to use less electricity to save for irrigation.
Sirajganj MP Shafiqul Islam and Mymensingh MP Reza Ali have "convinced" owners of local shops and mills not to run their businesses after evening.
"By saving the power, we are trying to meet as much as possible the demand for irrigation in our area," said Shafiqul Islam.
Jatiya Party lawmaker Zafar Iqbal Siddiqui said he had been receiving at least 1,000 phone calls every day from farmers over power shortages.
"I informed the power adviser, the state minister for power, and other top officials about the farmers' woes. I had tried my best. And they assured me. But the situation remains the same," Siddiqui said.
"As I had no good news for the farmers, I left my constituency and came to Dhaka [on Sunday]," said the Nilphamari lawmaker.

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