Like many earlier committees, another expert group led by former deputy chairman of planning commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia in its latest report, has given recommendations against free power to Punjab agriculture sector.
In its report submitted to Punjab government, Ahluwalia has listed various serious consequences of free power. It includes unsustainable burden on the budget and it compels government to reduce its estimates for expenditures on essential developmental projects. In total, power subsidy will amount to 1.9% of GSDP during 2021.
Apart from it, the free power has been causing damage to environment as after getting free power, Punjab farmers are preferring water intensive paddy cultivation and it has led to the depletion of ground water.
Though earlier also many other committees have urged the then governments to stop free power to all farmers as mainly only big farmers are benefitting from the scheme while small farmers are not getting its desired benefit. But since many politicians of various political parties have hundreds of tubewell connections, they do not want to pay bills for their electricity consumption and they have always opposed all the moves of government to stop free power to farmers.
In Punjab, there are around 14 lakh agriculture tubewells, which are getting free electricity. The free power subsidy bill has reached at the figure of around Rs 6200 crores. But since its is related to a farming community, not a single politician dares to even debate the subsidy bill, which is inflating every year. Whenever government takes any step to even start the review of free power to farmers, they start indefinite protests across Punjab and every time, government authorities have to reverse their decision. But the rising subsidy bill has been creating serious problems for non-farming sector of Punjab. To arrange money for free power to farmers, Punjab government has been increasing the rates of power for industry and domestic consumers.
Punjab government does not have any right to discriminate against non-farming sectors and it must take the latest report seriously.