Newly crowned Chief Minister of Punjab Arvind Kejri..err…Bhagwant Mann on Sunday announced 300 units of free electricity each month for every household in the state from July 1. This was the biggest poll promise of AAP’s manifesto in the run-up to the elections. However, by making cumulative 600 units free electricity in a billing cycle, without laying out the proper financials of how the bills will be waived, Mann and AAP have pushed Punjab’s exchequer into a tizzy.
In a video, Mann can be heard saying, “From July 1, 2022, each household in Punjab will get free electricity of 300 units per month. And it will be 600 units for two months,”
ਸਾਰੇ ਪੰਜਾਬੀਆਂ ਨੂੰ ਵਧਾਈਆਂ!
ਇੱਕ ਜੁਲਾਈ ਤੋਂ ਹਰ ਪਰਿਵਾਰ ਨੂੰ ਹਰ ਮਹੀਨੇ 300 ਯੂਨਿਟ ਬਿਜਲੀ ਮੁਫ਼ਤ ਮਿਲੇਗੀ।
ਅਸੀਂ ਆਪਣੀ ਦਿੱਤੀ ਹੋਈ ਗਰੰਟੀ ਪੂਰੀ ਕਰਦੇ ਹਾਂ। ਪੰਜਾਬ ਦੀ ਜਨਤਾ ਨੂੰ ਦਿੱਤੀਆਂ ਹੋਈਆਂ ਗਾਰੰਟੀਆਂ ਵੀ ਅਸੀਂ ਇੱਕ-ਇੱਕ ਕਰ ਕੇ ਪੂਰੀਆਂ ਕਰਾਂਗੇ।
ਹੁਣ ਜਨਤਾ ਦਾ ਪੈਸਾ ਜਨਤਾ ਦੀ ਸਹਿੂਲੀਅਤ ਉੱਤੇ ਖ਼ਰਚ ਹੋਵੇਗਾ। pic.twitter.com/hcGlTMcXWX
— Bhagwant Mann (@BhagwantMann) April 16, 2022
Mann also said that bill arrears up to 2 KW until December 31, 2021, would be waived for all consumers, farmers would continue to get power-free and there would be no change in the power tariff for industrialists. However, anyone who consumes more than 600 units will be billed for the entire consumption, not just for the excess above 600 units.
Additionally, Scheduled Castes, backward castes, below-poverty-line households and freedom fighters currently getting free 200 units each month will now get 300 units of electricity monthly
Punjab State Power Corporation Limited may get bust at this rate
As AAP remained determined to dole out everything for free, a debt-ridden Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) is staring at a bleak future. According to news reports, as of 2021, PSPCL had been caught in a debt trap, with major expansion and development works suffering due to paucity of funds. The roughly Rs 25,000-crore company is managing itself on more and more loans.
The total estimated loan against PSPCL for the next financial year stands at Rs 17,277 crore. The total long-term loan is Rs 5,767 crore and the interest payable on it is Rs 731 crore. The loan against working capital is Rs 9,860 crore and the interest payable on long-term loans is Rs 720 crore. The total interest payable by the PSPCL is Rs 1,705 crore. The interest on security deposits is Rs 180 crore.
With increasing temperature, Punjab’s power demand has already peaked at 8,000 MW. However, with wheat harvesting and the onset of paddy sowing season over the next one month, the power demand is expected to touch 15,000 MW. According to sources, PSPCL has apprised the leadership that introducing free power now could increase demand due to indiscriminate use of electricity.
AAP doles out a freebie from one end, pleads for financial package from other
Moreover, as reported by TFI, after becoming the Chief Minister, Mann had met the Prime Minister and immediately opened the begging bowl in front of him. Mann informed PM about the financial condition of the state and told him that there is debt worth Rs 3 lakh crores. Further, he demanded a special package for Punjab worth Rs 50,000 crores for two years to improve the state’s financial condition.
When repeatedly asked how AAP will manage the burden of free electricity and its cost – the entire party machinery has been trained to give a prepared answer. The party officials believe that by removing corruption and sand mafias, it will be able to come up with the funds.
Moreover, the party is making dangerous comparisons between Delhi and Punjab and how Mann will be able to emulate Kejriwal, which again is a highly slippery slope as the Delhi CM has been caught lying through his teeth regarding the capital’s finances on several occasions.
Read More: Sri Lanka should sign the Instrument of Accession
Freebie and populist measures may turn India into Sri Lanka – Central Secretaries
It is pertinent to note that earlier this month PM Narendra Modi met secretaries of the central government who sent the warning bells ringing by remarking that announcements made by state governments such as Punjab, Delhi, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and West Bengal were unsustainable, and some solutions need to be found.
Officials told the PM that some Indian states could go down the same path as Sri Lanka if they did not discontinue the freebies announced during election campaigns and manage their finances better.
Sri Lanka is currently facing its worst economic crisis in history: The public has had to suffer long queues for fuel, cooking gas, and essentials, and long hours of power cuts, for weeks now.
The island country has defaulted on its external debt of around $51 billion. The debt has soared to 102.8 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) in 2021, with a shortage of foreign exchange reserves to finance its external debt. All this happened because the successive regimes of Sri Lanka also emulated the populist model of governance.
Thus, instead of thumping his chest for the momentary gains, AAP and its leaders need to look inward. They need to chalk out the real numbers about how the state exchequer will be able to afford such huge subsidies. If not, five years down the line, we may have another Sri Lanka in the making in Punjab and its genesis will be traced down to the one fateful Sunday evening when AAP announced the freebie decision.
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