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May 24, 2018
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To cut power subsidy bill, govt ‘categorises’ farmersThe cash-strapped Punjab Government has found a novel way to bring down the cash component of its power subsidy — farmers who grow cereals will get power supply for eight hours every alternate day, and vegetable growers will get four-hour supply daily for the next two months.Though the Power Department authorities say the reason for “easing the power supply to agriculture sector” is the low demand till the paddy season starts in mid-June, farmers across the state allege that the electricity supply is being reduced to farms in order to bring down the farm power subsidy component in the total subsidy of Rs 13,700 crore that the government has to pay. A major part of this subsidy (Rs 6,256 crore for this year and Rs 4,964 crore as arrears, totalling Rs 11,220 crore) is given to the farm sector.Farmers are already complaining about the erratic power supply. Though as of now there is minimal demand for the farmers who grow wheat and paddy, those who have sown fodder, corn and vegetables require regular power supply.Across the state, the supply to the agriculture consumers is now being given every alternate days, some feeders located in vegetable crop growing areas are “officially” getting four hours of supply in the fields every day.Gurlal Singh, a farmer at Tumberbhan village in Ferozepur, told The Tribune that it had become difficult for corn and fodder growers to operate their tubewells. “Not only is the power supplied on alternate days, but even on days power is given, there are no fixed timings, keeping us on tenterhooks,” he said.PSPCL officials maintain that there is little demand for power in the agriculture sector and that they are using this low demand period for upgrading the power distribution system.“We have got Rs 1,000 crore worth of grants under Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana and Integrated Power Development Scheme. We are trying to upgrade the system to SAP in 95 towns, which will help generate computerised bills. The feeders catering to the vegetable growing areas are getting four hours of supply daily as per our notification,” said A Venu Prasad, Chairman and Managing Director, PSPCL.Farmers, however, refute this claim of regular supply. Gurbhej Singh of Jawaharsinghwala village said this was the time the fields needed irrigation for moong and fodder crops. “But the power situation seems to be getting worse by the day. The claim of Punjab being power surplus is hollow,” he added.The PSPCL authorities said as against the demand of 1,235 lakh units of power, the supply was also as much.No power cuts this summer: Minister   Bathinda: Power Minister Gurpreet Singh Kangar on Wednesday said power sector reforms would be his top priority. On his first visit to his Rampura Phul constituency after taking charge of the ministry, Kangar said he would soon hold a meeting with top officials of the PSPCL and ensure that there were no power cuts in the state during summer. He said farmers would get uninterrupted supply in the paddy season. He said power subsidy to the agriculture sector would continue.