New Delhi, April 20
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention to allow the Punjab government to sell surplus power to Pakistan or Nepal in the financial interest of the cash-strapped state. At an hour-long meeting with Modi here, Amarinder also sought the Centre’s support to make agriculture more sustainable for the state’s farmers by putting in place a “Deficiency Price Payment” mechanism to encourage a shift to non-paddy cultivation, Chief Minister’s media adviser Raveen Thukral said. Expressing concern over the problems faced by the Punjab farmers living in border areas, Amarinder also requested an increase in the central government’s compensation for such farmers to ensure effective and stronger border management. The Chief Minister also sought Modi’s intervention to prevent a possible revival of package of concessions to neighbouring states, as it would negate the Punjab government’s efforts to bring in investment, create jobs for the unemployed youths and revive the state’s economy, Thukral said. Pointing to the 1,000 MW surplus power availability in Punjab after meeting its internal demands, the Chief Minister said sale of power to neighbouring Pakistan or Nepal, as the case may be, would save people in Punjab from the burden of any extra taxes and also save the power consumers from the extra burden of fixed cost of power generating units. “Since Punjab shares its border with Pakistan and its Goindwal Sahib thermal power plant is situated close to the international border, it would not be difficult for the state to supply power to that country on continuous basis,” the Chief Minister noted. He said Punjab would be happy to supply electricity also to Nepal, which intends to meet its power shortfall by purchasing it from India, if the government of India agrees. Although the Punjab State Power Corporation Ltd (PSPCL) had, in the recent past, offered supply of power in tender enquiries floated for the purpose, it had not been successful in this, Amarinder said, and urged the Prime Minister to advise the Union Ministry of Power to favourably consider the state government’s proposal to sell power either to Pakistan or Nepal.
Referring to the plight of the state’s farmers, who are suffering from declining real farm incomes due to agricultural stagnation, the Chief Minister stressed the need for diversification of farming away for paddy.
The Chief Minister also batted for compensation for farmers owning land beyond the international border with Pakistan, as they face significant restrictions on the types of crops to be cultivated due to security reasons.
Amarinder Singh expressed concern over the reported move to revive the package of concessions for the neighbouring hill states of Himachal Praesh and Jammu and Kashmir, and urged the Prime Minister to ensure that no such special package was given to these states at the cost of Punjab’s economic development.
“If at all a special package is to be given, then Punjab should also be treated at par by granting a similar package,” Amarinder demanded, pointing out that the state also suffers a massive handicap in promoting industry due to the 554-km-long international borders with Pakistan and the sub-mountainous region in the Aravali foothills.
New Delhi, April 20