It was Punjab prerogative to give free electricity to the agriculture sector but it should also factor its sustainability, union minister of state for power Piyush Goel remarked on Sunday during videoconferencing with journalists from across the country.
The minister hinted that Punjab might go for rationalising the power subsidy. Last week, union finance minister Arun Jaitley had advised the state to consider this need, since power subsidy now is even bigger than the revenue deficit of the state for the year 2013-14. Goel said free benefit to one section of consumers should not harm the interest of the other sections.
In the last financial year, Punjab paid Rs 4,770 crore as subsidy for free electricity to the agriculture sector, and for the current year, the figure is Rs 4,300 crore. The experts and successive governments at the Centre have not recommended it but Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had announced openly that he would continue to support farmers in this manner.
Speaking on the issue of the power plants of the Adanis not supplying power to the Haryana government, Goel said the issue was between Haryana and the energy company, since both had signed an agreement. Answering a query on Jammu and Kashmir's shutting construction work at the Shahpur Kandi dam project, Goel said he was unaware but he would look into the details. Punjab is constructing that project.
The minister said from June to August, coal-based electricity generation had grown by a record 21% compared with the corresponding period in the previous year. "Coal India Limited (CIL) has agreed in-principle to purchase 250 additional rakes (for Rs 5,000 crores) to evacuate more coal. The government is expediting the laying of a critical railway line each in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha to transfer 6 crore tones of coal a year by the year 2017-18; and up to 20 crore tonnes by the year 2021-22," the minister said.