Updated: February 16, 2022 6:03:27 pm
THIRTY-year-old Sheela of Tangori village near Banur is hoping that Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) form the government in Punjab as, then, she would get Rs 1,000 per month as announced by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. On Sunday, however, Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi went a step ahead and announced Rs 1,100 per month for women if Congress is re-elected to power.
Sheela is now in two minds. “Who should I vote now? My entire village is talking about AAP. But a few women of our village are now discussing that Congress will be giving Rs 1,100. I heard Channi on TV while making this announcement,” she says.
Sheela is not the only one to have been lured by the freebies being announced. “Men get bottles of liquor. Nobody thinks about women. We know nobody will deliver these promises. But they certainly attract us,” said Charan Kaur of Rora village in Chamkaur Sahib, Channi’s constituency.
Considering that the freebies attract voters, the political parties are leaving no stone unturned. Leading with these announcements are Kejriwal and Channi.
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Kejriwal had earlier announced that all women, above 18 years of age, would be given Rs 1,000 every month if the state elected an AAP government.
His announcement sparked off a debate as there are about 1.10 crore women voters in Punjab, a state which is already burdened with a subsidy of over Rs 10,000 crore on power. The proposed sop would mean an expenditure of similar scale for Punjab, which is having a debt of over Rs 2.5 lakh crore.
But the Congress soon realised that the doles being offered to women were getting a lot of traction for AAP. It followed suit and soon Channi announced, in presence of AICC leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, that his government will give Rs 1,100 per month to them. Going a step ahead, he also offered eight free LPG cylinders every year.
Punjab Lok Congress founder and former CM Amarinder Singh, who questioned Kejriwal’s dole for women, announced in the joint manifesto with alliance partner BJP and SAD (Sanyukt) that they would waive the debt of all farmers having landholdings of less than five acres.
After Kejriwal promised 300 units of free power to all domestic consumers and waiving pending power bills in Punjab if voted to power in 2022, the ruling Congress went a step ahead and wrote off the pending power bills of electricity consumers having a load of upto 2 KW.
After Channi took over in September, he announced a pending bill waiver. Besides, he also announced free power to tubewells in rural areas supplying potable water to the residents. He also announced to reduce the service charges on all Rural Water Supply (RWS) schemes by 70 per cent from Rs 166 to Rs 50 per household per month. He also announced to reduce water usage charges to Rs 50 per month for domestic connections of all categories having plot size above 125 sq. yards in municipal councils, nagar panchayats, and municipal corporations.
Also, Channi announced slashing of power prices by Rs 3 per unit last month claiming that electricity would become cheapest in Punjab compared to all other states. The cheaper power is set to cost the state Rs 3,316 crore annually. The bill waiver cost the state Rs 800 crore.
He also announced a concession in prices of sand by Rs 4 per cubic feet. The sand cost Rs 9 per cubic feet earlier. He announced it to be available at Rs 5 per cubic feet.
Channi also announced capping of cable fee at Rs 100 per month. He also sparked off a debate as several leaders have been saying that he cannot cap the price of a private operator. Kanwar Sandhu, rebel AAP MLA from Kharar, who had been raising the issues in the past said that the capping can only be done through a legislation.
On freebies, he said these announcements will be disastrous for the state. “Before making announcements, they should be studied, and financial implications should be factored in as the state is already reeling under debt and has to borrow money for debt servicing. Where will you do the development from?” he asked.
Ahead of 2017 elections, Amarinder, on the suggestion of strategist Prashant Kishor, had promised free smart phones for youth, farm loan waiver, power subsidy to industry and other freebies. His government spent Rs 5,000 crore on farm loan waiver alone.
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