Bhagwant Mann, Kejriwal meet on AAP's 'free electricity' for Punjab poll pledge
The free electricity scheme was the first poll promise Kejriwal made in Punjab on June 29 last year in the run-up to the assembly elections
New Delhi: Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’s national convener Arvind Kejriwal will meet chief minister Bhagwant Mann in Delhi on Tuesday to finalise the modalities to fulfil their poll promise of providing free electricity for up to 300 units in Punjab. Officials in Kejriwal’s office said the scheme will be announced soon.
Kejriwal on Monday held a meeting with bureaucrats from Punjab on the issue. “It is going to be about a month since the AAP government in Punjab was formed. Kejriwal is very clear the free electricity promise of AAP has to be rolled out as soon as possible. All factors, from communicating with the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC), to the cost to be borne and also ensuring the scheme is not misused are being discussed,” said an official, requesting anonymity.
Mann was sworn in on March 16. The free electricity scheme was the first poll promise Kejriwal made in Punjab on June 29 last year in the run-up to the assembly elections. The AAP swept to power winning 92 of the 117 seats.
Punjab has a free electricity scheme for the poor, which was introduced by the previous Congress government in 2016. Currently, households of Scheduled Castes (SC), Backward Classes (BC), and those Below the Poverty Line (BPL) avail of 200-unit free electricity.
AAP promised free electricity to all households that consume up to 300 units, irrespective of their economic condition. “If power consumption exceeds 300 units, the consumer will have to pay. Under the AAP’s scheme, all the existing beneficiary categories such as SC and BPL families, which were getting 200 free units, will now get 300 free units and will be charged only for consumption over and above 300 units,” said a second official, requesting anonymity. “All other non-beneficiaries who do not receive any electricity benefits currently will get 300 units per month. If this category consumes more than 300 units per month, they will have to pay for the whole consumption.”
PSERC last week announced the tariff for different types of consumers will be the same as last year. For 2022-23, the average cost of power supply was kept at ₹6.48 per unit.
Punjab has around 7.3 million domestic, 1.4 million agricultural consumers for whom electricity is completely free, 1.15 million commercial, and 0.15 million industrial consumers.
Roughly 15% of the 7.3 million domestic consumers are availing of the existing free electricity scheme. For 2021-22, the power subsidy bill in Punjab was ₹10,668 crore. Of this, ₹7,180 crore was utilised for the subsidy to farmers, and ₹1,627 crore for SC, BC, and BPL households. The rest of the subsidy bill largely related to discounted rates of electricity for households as well as various categories of industries.
To roll out AAP’s scheme, the subsidy bill is likely to increase by at least ₹5,000 crore and will be over and above the current cost of about ₹10,668 crore.