Amid allegations by opposition parties that the state government may levy power bills on agriculture connections, the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) has started charging for power on tubewells if taken under Tatkal Scheme.
If a farmer applies under Tatkal Scheme, he/she has to give an affidavit that the one will be paying power bill as per the usage of the tubewell motor. The power connection is released only after only afterwards. The scheme was implemented nearly four months ago, said PSPCL authorities. Many farmers who need tubewell connections urgently are applying through this scheme, they added.
Under the scheme, apart from paying the entire expenses of getting tubewell installed which includes charges of erecting electricity wires till tubewell, raw material needed, labour charges etc, farmer has to pay power bill later on.
“Earlier too, farmers were getting tubewell connection on priority basis but they were paying only the installation charges, fixed security and later no power bill was charged to them. However, this priority tubewell connection initiative has been changed into Tatkal Scheme and farmers are being asked to pay power bills as well under this scheme. So this is just a ‘preview’ to charge power bills on agriculture connections… later on, they will include all the farmers,” said Sukhdev Singh, general secretary of Bharti Kisan Union (Ugrahan).
He also showed a communication between a Talwandi Sabo-based farmer, Gurmail Singh, and PSPCL authorities where the farmer was asked to submit an affidavit that he will be paying power bill after getting tubewell connection under Tatkal Scheme. Gurmail has also been communicated in the letter that for a motor of 10 horsepower, if the motor runs for an average 8 hours a day, the average bill per month will be around Rs 10,000.
Shingaara Singh Mann, president of BKU (Ugrahan) Bathinda unit, said, “This is just a start to include all farmers and snatch power subsidy from us. Farmers who need tubewell connection urgently, have no choice but to agree to these conditions as otherwise they cannot survive without water which is a basic requirement for doing farming.” Gurmail had applied for tubewell on priority basis and he was sent the communication on January 25 as per the letter with Sukhdev Singh.
Apart from the Tatkal scheme, Punjab’s Finance Minister Manpreet Badal, during his Ludhiana visit in January, had announced that they were to run a pilot project in six sub-divisions of Punjab by installing meters on existing tubewells and the farmers will be given Rs 48,000 per annum as the power subsidy in their accounts from which they can pay the power bill and hence it will work out to be free power for them.
However, farmers in Sangrur villages had not allowed the PSPCL authorities to install meters on their tubewells last week and hence PSPCL authorities had to come back bare handed. Sukhdev Singh said, “Through Tatkal Scheme, they have officially started charging power bill and another is that ‘pilot project’ through which they wanted to charge power bills unofficially. But we will not let it happen as later on they may stop sending power subsidy as well.”
If one applies for seeking tubewell connection under general category, one will get as and when the turn will come and in that case, no power bill will be charged. However, files under general category are pending so that the needy farmer has no choice but to go through Tatkal scheme, said Sukhdev Singh.
Meanwhile, N K Sharma, director, distribution, PSPCL, said, “Tatkal Scheme has been introduced for only those farmers who need urgent power connections and also they are willing to pay power bills as per metered supply. This scheme came in force four-five months back. It has nothing to do with the rest of the farmers. A few farmers have already opted for these connections, but I don’t remember the number of connections released under this category as of now.”