Affluent farmers yet to respond to CM’s call to give up power subsidy

PATIALA: Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh‘s appeal to farmers with large landholdings to give up power subsidy seems not to have yielded the desired result. Punjab State Power Corporation (PSPCL) is also yet to finalise a policy to bill the tubewell connections.

Till date, PSPCL received requests from only two farmers, who wish to surrender the power subsidy. One has been made by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira, who has nine tubewell connections in his name, and the other has been moved by Sukhbir Singh Thind, principal of the Government Mohindra College, Patiala.

To shore up the revenues of financially-stressed PSPCL, Amarinder had appealed to resourceful farmers to give up the power subsidy. Last month, the CM also announced that he was giving up free power for his farmhouse to lead by example. However, none of his cabinet colleagues nor the state legislators except Khaira have given up free power for their tubewell connections.

In keeping with its poll promises, the Congress government in Punjab will have to shell out more than Rs 10,000 crore for the power subsidy bill during the current fiscal year. The Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC), in its tariff order, had worked out a total subsidy of Rs 7,598.10 crore, which included previous year arrears of Rs 1,233.61 crore.

The announcement of giving power to the industry at ? 5 per unit, electricity concessions (free power) of 200 units per month for various category consumers and a shortfall in payment of subsidy for 2016-17 will take the figure beyond Rs 10,000 crore, a fact accepted by the government in its budget.

A senior official of the PSPCL, on condition of anonymity said the corporation had not yet started billing the farm connections. PSPCL director (distribution) N K Sharma said the corporation was in the process of formulating a policy to bill the tubewell connections of farmers willing to surrender the subsidy. “We are in talks with director (commercial) to fix the per unit charges for tubewell connections which have remained under the subsidy category till date.”

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