M A I N   N E W S

Punjab govt’s sop to hit power corp finances hard
Umesh Dewan/TNS

Patiala, December 11
The latest announcement of the Punjab Government to increase the existing limit of free power being given to Scheduled Caste (SC) and Below Poverty Line (BPL) families for domestic consumption by 100 units per month is likely to increase the problems of the cash-strapped Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL).

Since the decision taken by the state Cabinet is a policy matter, the PSPCL authorities are tight-lipped over the announcement. However, considering that the state government has not been able to pay the full amount of the advance monthly payment for free power to agriculturists, SC and non-SC/BPL domestic consumers, senior functionaries of the power corporation are “extremely worried” over the Cabinet decision.

Figures available with The Tribune reveal that the total amount of subsidy for free power for year 2011-12 was Rs 4,188.92 crore. From April to December, the state government was supposed to pay Rs 3,141.72 crore to the PSPCL. However, it paid only Rs 2,076.14 crore and a sum of Rs 1,065.58 crore was still outstanding towards it. Notwithstanding the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC) tariff order dated May 9, 2011, the government has not been releasing the full amount of the monthly advance payment for the power subsidy (Rs 394.08 crore).

Following the recommendations of the Sukhbir-Kalia committee in January 2010, the free power being given to SC and BPL families for domestic consumption was reduced from 200 units per month to 100 units per month. Now, in an apparent move to draw political mileage, the state government has once again raised the limit to 200 units per month. The move is likely to increase the annual subsidy bill for free power by Rs 350 crore.

Gurnek Singh Brar, a retired Superintending Engineer (SE) from the erstwhile PSEB who had also filed a petition in the PSERC against the state government for its alleged failure to make advance payment of subsidy to the corporation, said, “During the past two years, the state government has time and again failed to make the full advance payment for free power subsidy to the PSPCL. As on date, the arrears of Rs 1,065.58 crore are due towards the state government. Hence, the Cabinet decision is bound to further deteriorate the fiscal health of the power corporation.”

Despite repeated attempts, PSPCL CMD KD Chaudhri could not be contacted for comments. However, Secretary (Power), Punjab, Anirudh Tiwari said, “I have heard about the Cabinet decision but since I was on leave, I have not seen the minutes of the Cabinet meeting.”

PSPCL Director (Finance) SC Arora said PSPCL Director (Commercial) Surinder Pall was the competent authority to comment on the issue. However, Surinder Pall said only the CMD or the Director (Finance) could comment on the matter. When argued that the Director Finance had stated that Pall could comment on the issue, he said, “As per instructions, I am not authorised to talk to media directly. You please e-mail your queries to the PSPCL CMD and he would reply.”

Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Secretary SC Agarwal confirmed that the decision taken by the state Cabinet would be implemented with effect from December 1, 2011.

Bare facts

Out of Rs 3,141.72 crore subsidy bill up to Dec 2011, govt has paid only Rs 2,076.14 crore

New decision likely to further increase the annual subsidy burden by 
Rs 350 crore





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