Plan panel asks Punjab to review free power to farmers

February 19th, 2008 - 11:29 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, Feb 19 (IANS) Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia Tuesday asked Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal to review the decision to give free power to farmers in the state. Ahluwalia raised the issue with Badal during their meeting to discuss the state’s annual plan, which was finalised at Rs.62.1 billion for 2008-09, the allocation including Rs.2 billion for the projects of special interest.

“In the meeting, Ahluwalia pointed out that the policy of free power needed to be reviewed as it was leading to over-exploitation of ground water. Badal assured the commission that he would do the needful,” a Planning Commission official present in the meeting said.

The Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC) has already directed the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) to charge from March 1 the tariff as determined in the tariff order for 2007-08 without taking into account subsidy if the government failed to clear the outstanding dues running into several millions of rupees.

The Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party combine government first introduced free power for the farm sector soon after the alliance came to power in February 1997.

During the meeting, Ahluwalia underlined the need to step up initiatives for inclusive growth and encourage the private sector’s participation in the state’s overall development, the official said.

The commission asked the state to take lead in agro-marketing, skill up-gradation through public-private partnership, crop diversification, genetic up-gradation of major crops and power sector reforms.

Badal in his presentation before the commission said the state would focus on removing intra-regional imbalances, generating productive employment and improving quality of life by providing better healthcare facilities, sanitation, safe drinking water, education and greater access to food.

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