The subsidy for free power to the agriculture sector has witnessed a rise of 15% in the annual budget presented by Punjab finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa on Wednesday.
The power subsidy has grown from Rs 4,778 crore in the current fiscal to Rs 5,484 crore for 2015-16. Though the power subsidy is burdening the state exchequer, the state government continues with it despite criticism by experts who have been advising the government to do away with the subsidy and provide uninterrupted power supply to the farmers.
Calling it a government’s policy with no plan to rationalise it, Dhindsa said it was “productive subsidy”.
Interestingly, funds allocated for free power to run farm tubewells also forms a major part of the government’s expenditure in the agriculture sector.
Despite tall claims of the state government, there is zero allocation to agriculture diversification in the budget. The budget only lists proposals for setting up a multi-product mega food park at Ladowal and a centre of excellence for vegetable cultivation in collaboration with Israel in Jalandhar.
The budget allocates `600 crore for making payments to cane growers, Rs 300 crore for Punjab Agriculture University, Rs 230 crore to be spent under the Rashtriya Krishi Vigyaan Yojana, Rs 63.5 crore under the National Horticulture Mission and Rs 60 crore under the National Food Security Mission. The budget proposal also allocates Rs 181 crore for soil conservation. Besides, `20 crore has been allocated for paying compensation to families of farmers who committed suicide.
Though chief minister Parkash Singh Badal increased the compensation amount from `2 lakh to `3 lakh, the government has still not revised the list of farmers who committed suicide after 2011. As per the government figures, 4,688 farmers committed suicide in the state between 2000 and 2011.
ALLOCATIONS FOR POWER SECTOR
Rs960 crore for transmission
Rs 1,040 crore for power generation
Rs 1,750 crore for distribution, including 950 crore for restructured accelerated power development reforms programme
Rs 50 crore for providing 24-hour power supply to dhanis (villages having three-four houses)