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Ahead of poll, govt plays power politics
Announces 100 units of free electricity a month to 5 lakh landless families
Jangveer Singh/TNS

Chandigarh, December 3
In a bid to oblige landless labourers in the state ahead of assembly elections, the SAD-BJP government today announced 100 units of free power a month to each family falling in this category. The government has also decided to give Rs 50 crore a year as subsidy to the state power utility for providing free power to the landless families.

The Cabinet, which met under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, gave a go-ahead to the proposal today. Sources said the move, which would benefit around five lakh landless labourers in the state, would involve an annual expenditure of Rs 150 crore. With the announcement, the people taking advantage of the partial free power facility would increase to 15 lakh. Ten lakh Scheduled Caste and Below Poverty Line (BPL) families are already availing free power facility of 100 units a month.

Notably, successive governments have been playing the power card. Earlier in November 2006 at the fag end of its term, the Capt Amarinder Singh-led Congress Government had also announced 100 units of free power for Dalits and BPL families. The power subsidy on this account in 2006-07 was Rs 64 crore. After coming to power, the SAD-BJP government increased the power subsidy for Dalits and BPL families to 200 units per month, thereby, taking the subsidy amount to Rs 200 crore per annum. Though this subsidy was reduced to 100 units per month in January last following the recommendations of the Sukhbir-Kalia committee, the subsidy bill had increased to Rs 366 crore now due to increase in beneficiaries as well as tariff.

Though the SAD-BJP government has reverted to its old policy of giving 200 units of free power per month to different beneficiaries, it was set to bleed the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL). The government had failed to give the corporation the subsidy due to it on account of free power to farmers for the month of November.

The government is also not giving the full subsidy amount of Rs 349 crore that is due to the corporation. It is giving Rs 280 crore per month on the plea that it was retaining electricity duty due from the corporation. However, in November, while releasing Rs 280 crore to the corporation on account of subsidy for the month of October, it forced the corporation to pay back Rs 140 crore on account of electricity duty.

Meanwhile, the government also gave a go-ahead to various recommendations of the Cabinet Sub-Committee on employees' demands. It decided to implement the Assured Career Progression (ACP) scheme with effect from May 28, 2009, instead of December 1. It also approved an ex gratia of Rs 5 lakh in case of accidental or homicidal death while at work. In case an employee suffering complete permanent disability due to accident on duty, he would be entitled for full ex gratia amount.

The Cabinet approved conveyance allowance of Rs 300 per month to Group D employees, which would be admissible from December 1. It also decided to grant pay scales to lecturers working in government-aided polytechnic institutions on a par with their counterparts in government polytechnics. The pay scales of PCS (Executive Branch) have been revised with a minimum grade pay of Rs 5,000.





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