At a time when the Punjab government is struggling to pay staff salaries and is unable to arrange Rs 9,500 crore for a promised farm loan waiver, the state’s power subsidy bill is all set to touch a whopping Rs 14,000 crore this fiscal.
The power regulator has reminded the state of a huge power subsidy bill of Rs 11,000 crore, adding that it should have started clearing the dues at Rs 900 crore per month from April onwards.
As per the bill of Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC), sent to the Chief Secretary, Rs 11,000 crore is towards free power to farmers, free 200 units to poor families and the pending amount pertaining to last fiscal.
For the current fiscal, Punjab is set to provide free power to farmers worth Rs 6,000 crore, free supply up to 200 units to poor families with a cost of Rs 2,000 crore. It also has last fiscal’s balance of Rs 3,000 crore as the previous government had not cleared during the election year. Also, the government would have to shell out Rs 2800 crore for power subsidy to industry, a pre-poll promise that the government intends to implement from the current fiscal and roll out alongwith the industrial policy. While the subsidy would be actualised by the end of this fiscal, the Regulator’s power subsidy bill has crossed the budgetary estimates of the government.
Last month, the government was not able to pay staff salaries for two weeks. This month, the salary was routed to the treasury only on Tuesday. The state is already knocking at various doors to get access to an amount of Rs 9500 crore, promised as farm debt waiver. On Monday, CM Amarinder Singh met Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for easing borrowing limits.