Saturday, September 8, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Badal empowers farmers
41,000 power connections of farm tubewells to be regularised
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 7
In an effort to keep the farming community on its side, the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, today announced a series of benefits for rural consumers. The foremost of these is the regularisation of all 41,000 temporary power connections for agriculture tubewells given for paddy sowing season and slashing the charges for these connections from Rs 10,000 to Rs 5,000 per horse power.

The decision to this effect was taken at a high-level meeting presided over by Mr Badal and attended by the Power Minister, Mr Sikander Singh Maluka, the Chairman of the state electricity board, Mr Sudhir Mittal, and members of the board here today. Keeping in view the ensuing Assembly elections in the state, the decisions of the board, though expected, assume significance. However, this populist decision may put an additional burden on already heavily indebted board.

While the government had been announcing sops to all other sectors, including traders, employees, transporters, brick kiln owners and others, the farming community, which has been the mainstay of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal, had remained ignored . The only benefit it derived from the Punjab Government was an acceptable MSP and quick lifting of its produce though the minimum support price of paddy, another contentious issue, is yet to be announced even as the produce has already started arriving in the grain markets.

Emphasis on improving consumer-board relations, better service and improvement in distribution and transmission systems have been some of the chronic problems that have remained unaddressed for four-and-a-half years by the present government.

In fact, after announcing free power to farmers at the beginning of his term, other demands of farmers, including regularisation of power connections, remained unattended. Only on persistence from its alliance partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party and others, the state government recently announced some concessions, including free supply of power to consumers belonging to the reserve urban poor class.

Mr Badal directed the PSEB authorities to complete the regularisation of power connections in a time-bound manner, necessitating extension of full technical assistance and supervisory support to the farmers.

The Chief Minister also wanted that the pending applications for power connections, numbering about 13,000 in the past three years for which formalities have been completed, should be released soon to give a jump to agriculture production. He announced that the charges under the Voluntary Disclosure Scheme for agriculture tubewells would be reduced from Rs 3,000 to Rs 2,500 per BHP.

Mr Badal told the board to accelerate the pace of work on provision of 24-hour power supply to all villages that have deposited the prescribed fee as the government has sanctioned Rs 125 crore under the rural electrification scheme.

The Chief Minister instructed the board to streamline its billing by devising a new system so that the consumers did not have to go far-off places for depositing the bills.

The need for modernisation of distribution and transmission system was emphasised to ensure quality service to the consumers. The complaints of the customers should be redressed in the shortest possible time, the Chief Minister said. While reviewing the progress of various ongoing projects, the Chief Minister assured all help from the government for completing all the projects in a time-bound manner.

Mr Sikander Singh Maluka said efforts had been made for making power sector more responsive organisation to the needs of the public. He said that the free power to agriculture sector had contributed in a big way to give fillip to farm production.


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