Ahead of the paddy sowing season, Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) has announced the launch of a pilot project in three districts of the state where farmers will be given a cash incentive for consuming less electricity.
Fatehgarh Sahib, Jalandhar and Hoshairpur have been selected for the first phase of the scheme — Paani Bachao, Paise Kamao — which will be implemented on six pilot feeders. Speaking to The Indian Express, Baldev Singh Sran, chairman-cum-managing director, PSPCL, said that a cash incentive of Rs 4 per unit will be transferred to the bank account of the farmer if he consumed less energy than a particular limit.
Sran said that PSPCL has worked out an average of power consumed in these six feeders power horsepower per month and those farmers who volunteer for this scheme will be able to take advantage of the offer.
“For example if the supply limit of a farmer is fixed at 1000 units per month, according to BHP capacity of his tubewell motor, and if the farmer consumes 800 units than in that case Rs 800 (Rs 4 per unit for the 200 units saved) will be directly credited into his bank account,” he said.
The CMD said that if the consumption of the farmer exceeds the limit of per month units even then he will not be liable to pay any charges on this account and electricity will be supplied free of cost. “We just want to motivate the farmers to consume less electricity as the water table of Punjab is going down very fast and urgent measures are needed to arrest this decline,” Sran said.
Shingara Singh Mann, district president Bathinda of Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan) dismissed the scheme as an attempt to install meters on tubewells through the backdoor. “We will not allow this to happen. Not a single farmer will install meters on their tubewells as we know that tomorrow these meters will be sued to recover cost of supplying power,” he said.
Noted agriculture expert, Devinder Sharma, reacted to the scheme by saying that this was a typical step-by-step measure which will ultimately lead to withdrawal of free power. “What I do not understand is that if the motive of the government is to save water then why do they not implement those ways of sowing paddy which uses lesser amount of water,” he said.
Sran clarified that farmers who do not adopt this scheme will be supplied electricity free of cost as earlier. “This is entirely on a voluntary basis and we shall be holding camps and approaching individual farmers to urge them to subscribe to this scheme. We have also prepared literature to be distributed to the farmers titled ‘Kar Bhala Te Ho Bhala,” he said.
He said that meters will be installed on the tubewell motors of those consumers who will voluntarily adopt this scheme in order to keep a record of the subsidy. However, no bills will be issued to them. The consumers of these six feeders will be supplied electricity only during the day timings but if more than 80 per cent of consumers on these feeders adopt this scheme then they will get additional supply of two hours.
The CMD said the main objective of this scheme is to save water and earn money and it will not be forced on consumers. “There is a need for scientific use of water during the paddy sowing season and apart from the various measures being taken by the state government for diversification of crops etc, there is aplenty of scope for saving water,” he said. He added those farmers who adopt the scheme will get top priority under various agricultural schemes launched by the Punjab government.
Meanwhile, SAD on Tuesday said it would not allow the Congress government to scrap the free power facility given to farmers for agricultural operations as well as subsidised power facility given to industry, scheduled castes and below poverty line (BPL) beneficiaries “through the back door”.
Reacting to Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission’s (PSERC) order on charging these beneficiaries in case of default in disbursement of subsidy, former minister Bikram Singh Majithia said the entire move had been “masterminded by the Congress government to end free power facility”.
“This conspiracy against farmers, industry, Dalits and BPL beneficiaries has been planned by the Congress government and is being executed by PSERC on the former’s express directions,” Majithia said in a statement.