SAD to launch state-wide stir if free power to farmers goes
Chandigarh The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on Saturday resolved to launch state-wide protests, in case the Captain Amarinder Singh government in Punjab scraps free power to agriculture tubwells. No schedule for protest was announced. In 1997, the SAD-BJP government had introduced free power for all tube wells across Punjab.
“We will not let the government impose bills on tubewells. If that happens, the government will have to face the anger of people of Punjab,” SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal said in the party’s core committee meeting.
On Wednesday, the state cabinet took an in-principle decision saying that it will provide direct benefit transfer (DBT) of power subsidy to farmers for using tubewells. The decision will put an end to existing system of giving in advance a lump sum amount to PSPCL for electricity consumed by 14 lakh tubewells in the state.
The issue has given the Akalis a chance to touch base with the state peasantry, its major vote bank, which had distanced itself from the SAD, after series of incidents of desecration of Guru Granth Sahib in 2015. The then Akali-BJP government in the state was blamed for the desecrations. By resorting to the party’s old style of agitation politics, SAD see a chance to mobilise its workers, and rejuvenate its beleaguered support base in rural Punjab.
Dismissing a statement by Amarinder that the cabinet had never contemplated any move to scrap the free power facility for farmers and replace it with a direct benefit transfer scheme (DBT), the core committee resolved, “If the Congress government tries to force the decision on farmers through the backdoor under the pretext of cash subsidy to farmers, the SAD will not remain a mute witness to it,” it said.
“Initially, Punjab ministers confirmed the decision of imposing bills on tubewells. When when we declared to launch an agitation against the government, the CM and the state government panicked and felt compelled to deny the move,” Sukhbir told the core committee.
The committee also condemned the government for allowing 80% increase in fee in medical colleges and sought its withdrawal. It also condoled the passing away of former MP Gurdas Singh Badal.
In other major issues, the core committee sought a package for the poor from the state government. “The Congress government announced relief of Rs 676 crore to liquor contractors and land mining mafia (Rs 84 crore) but has not given a penny to farmers, labourers, domestic power consumers or the industry,” it said. The SAD has also demanded a CBI inquiry into the sale of spurious seeds and another impartial inquiry into reported losses of Rs. 5,600 crore caused to the state exchequer due to a scam in liquor sale. “The scam is patronised by the MLAs of the ruling party and the hot-spot is Rajpura and Patiala. No action is being taken,” the party said.