Defying the poor state of the economy of Punjab that its chief minister had complained about to Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month, Bhagwant Mann today announced 300 units of free electricity every month for every household in the state, beginning 1 July. Addressing a gathering at an event in Chandigarh, he said there would be no increase in the electricity tariff for industrial consumers while free power to the farming community will continue.
On 24 March, the Punjab chief minister had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and demanded a Rs 50,000 crore package per year for two years to improve the state’s financial situation.
“… Punjab’s financial condition is in the doldrums. We’ve demanded Rs 50,000 crores package per year for two years to improve state’s financial situation,” Mann had said.
But today the Punjab chief minister announced, “From 1 July, every household in Punjab will have 300 units of free electricity every month – 600 units for 2 months. BC, BPL, freedom fighters households used to get 200 units of free electricity earlier, they too will now get 300 units free.”
“Households that consume more than 600 units of electricity in two months, for instance – 640 units or 645 units – will need to pay only for the extra 40 or 45 units that they have consumed over and above 600 units,” Mann said.
Mann burdens Punjab exchequer
The promise of free electricity and waiver of past dues for electricity is expected to take a heavy toll on the already debt-laden state. The state has a debt of about Rs 3 lakh crore.
Further, at a time when the government plans to offer free power, the state is witnessing power outages with the rise in power demand and shortage of coal.
The state exchequer will have to bear a cost of Rs 1,300 crore per month due to the subsidy on power.
Opposition not impressed
The Punjab government waives off dues of old electricity bills up to 31 December 2021 of households with a load up to 2 kW of electricity. INC MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira asked Mann why free electricity would be provided from July and whether power consumers would have to pay the full bill if their consumption exceeds 300 units.
The Bholath MLA, in a tweet, said, “I welcome Bhagwant Mann for fulfilling his promise of 300 units of free electricity but why wait till 1 July? Is there an issue of fiscal management? And please clarify if the bill is 301 units will the consumers be charged the full bill? Lastly any move to do away with tubewell subsidy?”
Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh Raja Warring tweeted, “Bhagwant Mann Ji, the Proof of the pudding is in the eating… The truthfulness of your 300 unit free power will be tested in detail and the conditions attached to it… Best of luck to PSPCL who have to survive now, somehow.”