FARMERS WON’T HAVE TO PAY FOR POWER UNDER DBTE, DECLARES PUNJAB CM

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·        RULES OUT COERCISION IN PILOT PROJECT ON CASH SUBSIDY FOR AGRICULTURE POWER

·        ANNOUNCES DEBT WAIVER FOR 3 LAKH MORE FARMERS BEFORE BUDGET SESSION

Chandigarh, February 3: Refuting the opposition’s allegations and misleading propaganda in this regard, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Saturday made it clear farmers would neither be forced, nor would they have to make any payment, under the Pilot Project on Direct Benefit Transfer for Electricity (DBTE) for agriculture consumers.

Underlining the importance of the project in view of the grave problem of depleting ground water table in the state, the Chief Minister asserted that, contrary to the falsehoods being spread by the Opposition, no farmers would be charged for power consumption. The direct benefit had been mooted as a solution to the worsening groundwater problem, said the Chief Minister, while announcing farm debt waiver for another 3 lakh farmers before the budget session, likely to be held in the second week of March.

The Chief Minister explained that under the scheme, farmers will be paid money, in advance, directly into their bank account, from which they can pay their electricity bills. Whatever they save will go into their pockets, he said, adding that the move was aimed at encouraging farmers to save ground water by minimising its use. If the ground water crisis is not addressed on priority, Punjab would face turbulent times ahead, the Chief Minister warned, adding that the DBTE would lead to a win-win situation for both, the government and the farmers.

Elaborating further, the Chief Minister said that under the scheme, therefore, if a farmer is consuming electricity worth Rs 50,000 in a year, he would be paid that amount directly. If he manages to save on his electricity bill through prudent consumption, the money he thus saves will go into his pocket.

The idea behind this is not to save electricity, which is surplus, but to save the precious ground water resource, which is on the brink of annihilation, said Captain Amarinder, adding that when farmers discover that the money they save is theirs, to use as they wish, they would be motivated to use electricity judiciously.

The Chief Minister also rejected charges of forcible imposition of the scheme, saying no farmer was being forced into joining the pilot project, being launched in a very limited area.  The benefits of the scheme are being explained to the farmers, who were voluntarily coming forward to participate in the pilot in their own interest, he added.

The state cabinet had approved the pilot project at its last meeting. Under the pilot project, the beneficiary farmers would be paid subsidy in cash, based on cost of power for irrigating the crops as finalized by Punjab Agriculture University, along with Agriculture and Water Resources departments. The farmers would be issued bills for electricity and allowed to retain the savings i.e. subsidy minus the bill amount.

The implementation of the DBTE scheme would help the state in promoting crop diversification, saving of precious ground water, accurate energy accounting resulting in rationalization of subsidy, checking Transmission & Distribution (T&D) losses, besides curbing of wasteful energy consumption. The farmers, in turn, will be benefitted through regular income by saving electricity and promoting crop diversification.

If successful, the project would be followed by randomized evaluation to measure the benefits of DBTE for agriculture consumers in terms of conservation of power and ground water, said the spokesperson, giving details of the cabinet decision.

The Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) has tied up with J-PAL South Asia and the World Bank to evaluate DBTE for agriculture consumers on six feeders with 990 AP connections, according to a spokesperson of the Chief Minister’s Office.