Punjab govt’s move to stop free power to farmers ‘midsummer madness’: Sukhbir
Chandigarh: Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal on Thursday slammed the Punjab government for its move to abolish free power on the pretext of replacing it with direct benefit transfer (DBT) of subsidy.
In a statement, Sukhbir said the move is a curtain-raiser for the total abolition of the free power facility for farmers introduced by the Parkash Singh Badal-led SAD-BJP government in 1997. “This is midsummer madness by the Congress government in the state and a shocking assault on the already beleaguered peasantry,” he said, convening an emergency meeting of the SAD core committee in Chandigarh on May 30 to discuss the party’s strategy on the issue.
The Punjab cabinet had on Wednesday agreed in-principle to switch from free electricity to cash transfer of subsidy to farmers’ bank accounts from the next fiscal to become eligible for additional borrowing under reforms-linked enhancement announced by the central government.
The SAD chief said the direct benefit transfer policy means that meters will now be installed on farmers’ tubewells and they will be forced to pay the bills. “As for the promised refund later, we all know the record of this government which has failed to pay even medical and TA bills and often faulted on even the salaries of its employees. Who can trust this government’s word on reimbursement to farmers?” he said.
He said the Congress had, in its earlier tenure from 2002-07 also, abolished free power and the SAD along with farmers had launched an agitation to force the government to resume it.