Though the power subsidy in agriculture sector in Punjab increased from 46 per cent to 71 per cent during the three years of 2014 to 2017, the contribution of agriculture to Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) exhibited a declining trend, a CAG report tabled in the Punjab Assembly on Thursday pointed out.
The report also noted that with the provision of free power supply to agriculture sector in March 1997, the preference for irrigation shifted from canal to electricity operated tubewells.
“As a result, electricity consumption in agriculture sector increased by 119.19 per cent in 2015-16 (115139 kwh) over 2001-02 (54519 kwh),” it said.
“As agricultural power subsidy is still unmetered, the subsidy of Rs 10,460 crore paid to PSPCL (Punjab State Power Corporation Limited) for providing free power to farmers during 2014-17 was on estimation basis,” it further said.
The Congress government is planning a pilot study for metering ground-water depleting tubewells in exchange for cash subsidies.
The farmers are, however, opposing the move. Opposition SAD is also critical of the move, saying it was a precursor aimed at eventually levying electricity bills and ending power subsidy to the farmers. The CAG report, meanwhile, noted that out of the total subsidy given by State, power subsidy, including to farmers, accounted for 85 to 99 per cent between 2012-13 to 2016-17.
In a recommendation, CAG said, “The State may like to review the policy of providing free power to farmers keeping in view the fact that preference for irrigation has shifted from canal to electricity operated tubewells which besides leading to depletion of groundwater resources has resulted in increased burden of power subsidy.”
From the report
# While union finance ministry in March 2016 fixed the net borrowing ceiling of the State government for 2016-17 at Rs 12,819 crore and instructed the State government to ensure that its incremental borrowings from all sources remained within this ceiling, the report observed that incremental borrowings were Rs 53,691 crore during 2016-17 which exceeded the net borrowing ceiling by Rs 40,872 crore (318.84 percent).
#Greater Mohali Area Development Authority (GMADA) incurred/released Rs 289.88 crore for the works which did not fall in its jurisdiction.
# Government dues of Rs 35.56 crore and interest of Rs 12.61 crore thereon was not realised from the contractors of mines and brick kiln owners. Measures for prevention of irregular mining were inadequate… fines of Rs 18.90 crore imposed for illegal mining were not enforced.
# Anti-drug action plans and annual plans were not prepared. Adequate surveillance and modern equipment and narcotic trained sniffer dogs were not available in the State. The department was not equipped with trained staff to deal with cases under NDPS Act. As many as 532 accused were acquitted by the courts due to deficiencies in testimony statements of police officials. Samples of seized NDPS were sent to laboratory with delay of up to 476 days.