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Punjab scraps plan to release 2.5 lakh agricultural pumpset connections

August 06, 2018
Worried over depleting groundwater due to excessive extraction to irrigate fields using tubewells, the Punjab government has shelved the policy to release more than 2.5 lakh agricultural pumpset (AP) connections that had been announced by the previous SAD-BJP regime.

Punjab power minister Gurpreet Singh Kangar, who was in Patiala on Saturday, said the government was working on a new policy under which the farmers could collectively use the tubewells to irrigate their fields.

He said chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh was concerned about the ecological sustainability of the government policies and under his vision, the government had decided not to release any new tubewell connections in Punjab for the time being.

Kangar said the policy to release 2.5 lakh tubewell AP connections was discontinued by the SAD-BJP government. He said it was not financially viable for the marginalised and small farmers to get new tube wells installed as the cost of the same had escalated to over Rs 4 lakh.

“It was a political gimmick played by the Akalis just a few months before the assembly elections to mislead the voters. However, when the farmers calculated the cost of getting new tube wells installed, many decided not to file applications with Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL),” Kangar said.

The minister, who praised the top management of the PSPCL for having ensured uninterrupted power supply during the peak paddy season, said this year the state utility had met the highest-ever demand of over 13,000 MW. Expressing concerns over the break in monsoon rains in the region, he said the demand for power was again rising in Punjab. He also hinted that if the need arose, the government could even fire up the shut thermal units at Ropar where coal was available. The minister said the proposal to set up a new supercritical thermal unit at Ropar was also under the consideration.

He said officials of various agencies, including the power corporation, were working to evaluate the possibility of operating shut thermal units of the Bathinda plant using paddy straw as fuel to mitigate the side effects stubble burning in the state. However, no final decision has yet been taken in this regard. He said the proposal to set up a solar power plant on the premises of the Bathinda thermal was also being considered.

Minister summons departmental heads

Punjab power minister Gurpreet Singh Kangar said he had convened a meeting of heads of various government departments, which had defaulted on paying the power bills. The pendency of the government demands has crossed Rs 1,200 crore in the state. “I have called a meeting of head of all government departments next week at Chandigarh during which I will be asking them to clear the pending bills at the earliest,” he said. The minister, however, skirted the questioned regarding the delay in the release of power subsidies to PSPCL. The state government has to pay a subsidy of over Rs 13,000 crore to the PSPCL during the current fiscal, out of which only around Rs 2,000 crore have been released till date.

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