Ruchika M Khanna
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, October 18
Punjab, while staring at desertification in two decades as claimed by various government agencies, has now made water supply to consumers nearly free. This will lead to further indiscriminate use of water.
Interestingly, by taking a decision to waive the pending bills and bring down the user charges on water to just Rs 50 per connection, the Charanjit Channi-led government has also gone against the advice of a Vidhan Sabha committee headed by now Technical Education and Soil and Water Conservation Minister Rana Gurjeet Singh, which had recommended the metering of water supply and taking other immediate steps to reduce groundwater extraction.
Sources in the government told The Tribune that while the pending electricity bills of the rural water supply schemes of Rs 1,168 crore would be paid by the state government to Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL), each year another Rs 440 crore would be allocated in the Budget for the said purpose. Besides this, Rs 200-crore pending power bills of the urban water supply schemes have been waived, while approximately Rs 50 crore will have to be provided each year to the PSPCL for these schemes.
This means that while this year, the power subsidy bill of the state would increase by Rs 1,808 crore, it will rise by Rs 500 crore annually. Already, the annual power subsidy bill of the state is Rs 10,668 crore or 11% of the total revenue receipts. This high power subsidy has become unsustainable and each year, the state defaults in paying the subsidy.
During this fiscal too, Rs 7,000 crore of subsidy from last year was carried forward.
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