The President of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), Sukhbir Singh Badal, has accused Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann of going back on his promise to supply power to the industrial sector at a rate of Rs 5 per unit. Badal has stated that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government has effectively increased the power tariff for industries by 60 paise per unit, which will negatively impact their competitiveness. Already, industries in Punjab are moving to other states such as Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir. Badal has warned that this hike will accelerate this migration, severely impacting Punjab’s economy and resulting in large-scale unemployment.
Badal has blamed the mismanagement of the Punjab State Power Corporation Ltd (PSPCL) by the government for penalizing the industry. The PSPCL, which was ranked number one in the country during the tenure of Parkash Singh Badal, is now bankrupt. The corporation is not being paid due subsidies amounting to Rs 9,020 crore, and the government departments owe Rs 2,548 crore in pending electricity dues. The PSPCL’s financial future is bleak as the AAP government has deliberately under-estimated the subsidy amount by Rs 7,000 crore as per its own engineers’ association. This situation has forced the corporation to take loans from banks and financial institutions at high interest rates, further dooming it.
Badal has warned that the situation is likely to worsen in the coming days as the summer season has not yet started, and the state power utility has already started imposing power cuts of up to eight hours per day even in cities. With the power utility lacking funds, it will find it difficult to match the power demand during the summer, which could jeopardize paddy transplantation in the state. Badal has demanded that the Chief Minister release due funds to PSPCL by cutting the Rs 750 crore advertising budget and controlling corruption in the excise policy. The PSPCL needs funds urgently as it is unable to even spare money for routine repairs of transformers and grids, which will cause suffering to farmers and the entire agricultural economy.
Badal has also demanded an immediate rollback of the hike in industrial tariff and the extension of more facilities to the industrial sector to create job opportunities for youth.