Chandigarh: The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) today held protests before PSPCL offices across Punjab to highlight the plight of farmers, domestic consumers and the industry who are suffering because the Congress government deliberately withheld eight hour free supply to farmers besides imposing unscheduled power cuts in urban areas and ordering twice a week closure of industries.
The SAD demanded an immediate financial package for paddy farmers who were forced to use diesel generators besides demanding an immediate reduction in VAT on diesel by the Congress government. It said if these corrective measures were not taken along with restoration of regular supply of power to farmers as well as the domestic and industrial consumers the party would ‘gherao’ the chief minister and ministers in the next phase of its agitation.
SAD President Sukhbir Singh Badal joined the protests at Lambi, Fazilka and Ghubaya during the course of which he held Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh solely responsible for the plight of the people. He said the Punjab chief minister had not taken a single review meeting of the power utility to ensure adequate supply of power to paddy farmers.
He also asserted that this was done deliberately to keep the subsidy bill down.
“The Congress government does not want to provide free power to farmers and this is the reason why it is not supplying power when it is needed most,” he said.
Standing amongst parched paddy fields in Fazilka, Mr Sukhbir Badal said the government did not make any attempt to ensure timely maintenance of thermal plants which had let to the closure of the Lehra Mohabbat plant as well as closedown of one unit of the Talwandi Sabo plant. He said in stark contrast during SAD government tenure farmers had always received eight hours uninterrupted power supply besides 24 hour supply to the domestic and industrial sectors.
Former Punjab minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal participated in dharnas at Bathinda City and Sangat Mandi during the course of which she disclosed how the erstwhile SAD government had spent more than Rs 4,000 crore on upgrading the transmission and distribution system. She said the Congress government did not earmark funds for maintenance of grids besides failing to add a single megawatt of extra power in the last four and a half years.
She said all this as well as withholding of free power supply to farmers was responsible for the current crisis which was even forcing farmers to plough their paddy fields. She also took on the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) saying it had not given any practical relief to power consumers in Delhi and had only spent thousands of crores on advertisements.
Former minister Bikram Singh Majithia who participated in the dharna at Majitha amidst slogans of “Captain Bhajayo, Punjab bachayo”, said instead of resolving the crisis which had engulfed Punjab in the form of a Power Emergency, the chief minister was busy hosting five star luncheon meetings for Congressmen.
He said it was ironic that Hindu leaders of the Congress were given a “tohfa” in the shape of order of closure of factories for two days in a week besides imposition of draconian cuts in residential and commercial areas. He also disclosed how a fresh burden of Rs 2,500 crore to Rs 3,500 crore had been put on farmers who were forced to use diesel generators and that the government had earned from their misery due to increased rates of VAT on diesel.
In Ropar farmers held a unique “Muft Pakhi Sewa” protest by distributing ‘pakhis’ to citizens under the leadership of former minister Dr Daljit Singh Cheema. Amidst slogans of “bijli sankat hal karo, hal karo”, Dr Cheema said people were forced to go back to using ‘pakhis’ with even urban areas facing cuts of as many as eight to ten hours. He also disclosed how diesel generators, which had become a thing of the past during the erstwhile SAD led government, had made a comeback in the State.
SAD leaders led protests across the State and were joined by the common man who has been on the roads since the last two days. YAD President Parambans Singh Romana led a huge protest at Faridkot. EOM