Friday, September 6, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


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No free power for farmers
8 to 13 pc hike in Punjab tariff mooted
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 5
The Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission, according to informed sources, has decided to impose power tariff on the agricultural sector, which was exempted from paying it by the previous SAD-BJP Government in 1997.

The debate whether the farming sector should pay power bills or not has been going on in the state for the past several months.

The commission, which is expected to issue the order tomorrow regarding the much-debated tariff revision, is believed to have recommended an 8 to 13 per cent increase in power tariff for various categories of consumers. The petition for tariff revision was filed before the commission on April 4 this year. Actually, the PSEB as well its Engineers Association have been lobbying hard for the past several days for early revision of the tariff.

The tariff for the flat-rate category in the agricultural sector is likely to be between Rs 60 and 70 per BHP and for metered supply it is likely to be between 50 and 60 paise per unit in this sector. The PSEB had sought Rs 240 per BHP for the flat-rate category and Rs 2 per unit for metered supply.

As the government has committed a subsidy of Rs 750 crore for the agricultural sector and Rs 50 crore for the Scheduled Castes families, the commission has decided to keep the tariff for these categories on the lower side. While the government wanted book adjustment of subsidy against the interest on loans payable to the government by the PSEB, the latter sought its payment in cash. How the commission has resolved this issue is not yet known.

In the petition, the PSEB had pegged its revenue requirement at Rs 7,858 crore from all sources, Rs 7438 crore from tariff alone. At present, its total revenue from all sources is Rs 5239 crore. There is a gap of Rs 2619 crore. However, differing with the PSEB, the Punjab Government in its representation to the commission had calculated the board’s requirement at Rs 5981 crore.

The commission appears to have reconciled the claims and objections of both — the PSEB and the government — to arrive at judicious rates of tariff for all categories. The commission has its own criteria to calculate the revenue requirements of the PSEB and it has by and large depended on that. And in the process, it has conceded the major demand of the PSEB pertaining to the charging of power bills from the farming sector. In fact, the agricultural sector was the central issue as far as the tariff revision is concerned. This sector, according to the PSEB authorities, consumes 5986 lakh units annually — over 25 per cent of the total consumption.

With the revision, the PSEB’s calculated gap in revenue requirement is expected to come down between Rs 1600 and 1700 crore.

It may be mentioned that the PSEB had asked the commission to revise the tariff from April 1. The Commission is of the view that it should be enforced either from August 1 or the first day of the current month. The problem that has been bothering the commission is regarding the recovery of arrears if the tariff is revised with retrospective effect.

The commission has recommended several steps asking the PSEB to cut down its expenditure and to reduce line losses which cause revenue loss worth crores.

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