Against Punjab farmers’ will, PSERC issues instructions to fix meters on tubewells
The Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC) has directed the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) to submit an action plan to fix meters on all 13.5 lakh tubewells used for agriculture in five years. The order, issued on October 23, asks the PSERC to prepare a road map within a month and start metering in 2018 and finish it by 2023. The regulator states that the metering will be covered under the provisions of the Electricity Act, 2003, and that funds to implement the scheme were available under the Centre’s Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gramin Jyoti Scheme.
“PSPCL should have used the funds,” the order, in which the power tariff for all sections of consumers was also increased by 9.3% on average, said.
It went on to add, “Failure to achieve yearly target would invite punitive action,” the PSERC order, referring to provisions in the Electricity Act.
Farm bodies had opposed pilot project in Majha
As a pilot project, the PSPCL started fixing meters on the tubewells in state’s Majha belt but farm bodies opposed it. Farmers apprehend that fixing of meters means levy of power bill on the tubewells, which the government pays currently on farmers behalf and this year’s subsidy bill for free power has touched Rs 5,900 crore.
“There is no need for meters on tubewells, the PSPCL can fix meters on feeders which supplies power to a set of tubewells, if they want to consume the power consumed by the agriculture sector,” said Balbir Singh Rajewal, president of a faction of Bharatiya Kisan Union, the farmer’s body. In a bid to assure farmers, the Captain Amarinder Singh government has clarified that the free power to tubewells would continue.
Meters mandatory, no matter who pays: PSERC
Meanwhile, the PSERC has maintained that meters are mandatory, even if the government continues to pay the bill of farmers. PSERC chairpersons Kusumjit Sidhu while announcing a yearly tariff accepted that the PSPCL was going slow on the fixing on meters. PSPCL, in response, has claimed that work was in progress to fix meters on 1% of the tubwells, to which the PSERC’s October 23 says that the directions were to assess the transmission and distribution losses on agriculture feeders. The PSERC order even says, “100% metering of all consumers is the mandate of the electricity norms.”
The regulator has also maintained that the PSPCL was mixing transmission and distribution losses with the agriculture composition.
‘PSPCL deliberately ignored instructions’
Referring to its April 2017 instructions for the segregation of agriculture feeders in Kandi belt of the state, PSERC said instructions were deliberately ignored by the PSPCL. It directed the PSPCL to have submitted project reports in a time-bound manner.
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