LAHORE - The clash between thousands of farmers and Multan Electric Power Company further intensified after the power distribution company’s refusal to restore the disconnected electricity supply to dozens of villages in district Vehari and D.G Khan, The Nation has learnt.

The supply had been disconnected over the issue of non-payment of tube-well bills. Farmers earlier refused to pay the bills, saying the monthly bills were massively over-billed.

Pakistan Kissan Ittehad, a representative body of the farmers, warned to launch countrywide protest demonstrations if the Mepco did not abandon its “tradition of over-billing”. The PKI earlier had held massive protest demonstrations for farmers’ rights in Lahore, causing blockage of GT Road for hours.

Sources said the Mepco, on bills non-payment, had disconnected supply to tube-wells and later deprived all villages lying in the range of “defaulter tube-wells” from electricity after the farmers started getting direct power supply for watering their crops, sources said.

The angry farmers of Tehsil Borewala (Distt Vehari) also held a protest demonstration in their native town to record their protest against the power distribution company. Farmers were baton charged by local police; some were booked and some fled from the scene. The situation in some villages of D.G Khan is even worse where dozens of villages are without electricity for nearly a week now, sources said.

A resident of a village near Borewala told The Nation on phone that they were without electricity for past five days.

Pakistan Kissan Ittehad secretary general Mian Umair Masood told this scribe that the issue of over-billing was not only restricted to Mepco but all power distribution companies did this malpractice to increase their revenue and cover line losses.

“Mepco had installed SIM metering system in cooperation with the USAID but it did not stop over-billing. Farmers are helpless before the power distribution companies. PKI had held the meeting with water and power secretary and informed him about farmers’ problems but the issue is still unresolved,” he said.

Lesco, Fesco, Gepco and other power distribution companies send inflated bills to thousands of villagers every month and poor farmers have no option but to submit them (bills), said Umair.

“Agriculture sector is badly hit by loadshedding. Rural areas of Punjab and other provinces are virtually without electricity. But the situation became worst when we get inflated bills without using electricity,” he said. A tube-well owner even gets Rs30,000+ extra bill every month, he added.

“We are going to hold multi-party conference in Islamabad on agriculture disaster on February 22. PTI chairman Imran Khan, opposition leader in National Assembly Khurished Shah and JI chief Sirajul Haq are attending the conference. We will raise all issues before them and try to adopt a joint strategy to achieve farmers’ rights in Pakistan,” he said.