FREE POWER to landlords was a huge bone of contention for industrialists during an interaction with A Venuprasad, chairman-cum-managing director (CMD) of Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) in Ludhiana on Wednesday. Industrialists raised objections as to why the state was spending over Rs 6,000 crores to give free power to farmers, a number of whom were big landlords. “If they can be given free power, what about the small industrialists, who run their units in one room with two-three machines. Why can’t they be given subsidised power? We are not even asked for free power on lines of the farm sector. But their subsidy payment is coming from us in the form of hike in power tariff year after year,” said Kulwant Singh, president of Machine Tools Association of Ludhiana, during the interaction.
The situation became tense when Kulwant Singh, Jaswinder Singh Thukral, president of Janta Nagar Small Scale Industrialists, and a few others starting talking about their problems and complaints against PSPCL. The interaction was organised by the Apex Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), an industry body based in Punjab.
P D Sharma, president of ACCI, however, asked them not to mention too many problems. Thukral got agitated and said, “Why have we been called? Just to present a bouquet to the CMD or to express our concerns.” Later, shortage of time was cited as the reason and hence several people refrained from giving any opinion.
Meanwhile, Kulwant told, “We are paying approximately Rs 7 per unit as power tariff and as we are finding it too high, we have demanded that it should be lowered to Rs 5 per unit.”
The CMD, however, said such decisions can be taken only after the budget session of the Assembly. However, he announced that power factor implemented on small scale units would be abolished and even prior information about power shutdown would be given as industrialists complained about long power cuts in the name of maintenance and that too without any information in advance.
Kulwant said, “The CMD, however, did not react to our concern about free power to farmers as we have seen big farmers who have built farmhouses on the farmland and hence enjoying free power even inside their farmhouses, which is unjustified.”
Industrialists reasoned that free power to the farm sector should be limited only to small and marginal farmers so as to reduce the burden of subsidy. However, it has already been mentioned in the poll manifesto of the Congress that free power to farm sector would continue.