M A I N   N E W S

More farmers to benefit from ‘free power’ policy
Sarbjit Dhaliwal & Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 5
Obvious political compulsions coupled with pressures of populism, the Punjab Government today decided to bring about a major amendment to its policy of “free power” which is officially described as “energy bonus” to small farmers.

Though details of the policy will be formally announced tomorrow by the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, informed sources in the government said the scope of benefits of free power was being further widened to include more farmers. “We will be very liberal to include more farmers,” said a senior member of the Cabinet tonight.

Various combinations and permutations of the new policy were discussed at a high level meeting today. However, another meeting on the issue will be held tomorrow morning before making the announcement on the new eligibility criteria.

The present policy announced on August 20 says farmers having upto 5 acres of land will be given an energy bonus of Rs 300 per month for a 5 BHP motor. In the dark blocks and in the Kandi area the bonus is Rs 450 per month for operating a 7.5 BHP motor.

Now, amending this, the government plans to give the energy bonus to farmers having upto 7.5 acres of land instead of 5 acres. Even farmers having motors of higher capacity are being considered.

Another possibility is that families owing land collectively will be counted as separate units thus making them eligible for the bonus. The head of the family will be required to give an affidavit in this regard. For instance if a farmer has four heirs and owns 30 acres, he will be required to give an affidavit to be part of the new farmed policy. An official said, this was still under consideration and a decision on this will be taken tomorrow morning.

However, the existing policy already stands rejected by almost all sections of farmers, including powerful factions of the Bharti Kisan Union (BKU). Immediately after the announcement of the existing policy, the government had got a negative feedback on the actual number of beneficiaries and started rethinking to amend it. Even senior Congress leaders had realised that the expected political benefit would not be reaped by the party.

Sources said the Punjab Government carried out an exercise asking its revenue department, agriculture and other farm-related departments to bring out data on the size of land holdings. This data was on land holdings upto 7.5 acres of land and also 10 acres.

Sources said, besides senior Punjab ministers and bureaucrats, the Chief Minister also held detailed discussions with Chairman of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) Mr Y.S. Ratra to widen the scope of the policy.


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