Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh refuted allegations that the government is planning to cancel free electricity supplied to farmers.
“Till we stay in power you will get free power. I am aware of your economic condition and appreciate the hard work reaped in the form of every single grain. I am, without a second thought, willing to forego the portion of fiscal deficit enhancement offered by the Centre to protect your interests,” the CM said.
The issued had sparked a row in the last two days after reports of state government planning a scheme to ensure cash transfer to farmers through DBT (direct benefit transfer) in lieu of free electricity went around.
After the last cabinet meeting on May 27, the government issued a statement saying as part of the reforms necessitated under measures announced by the Centre to avail an additional borrowing time for GSDP, it is putting in place a scheme for financial year 2021-22 for ensuring cash transfer to farmers through DBT. However, the chief minister said, “It is totally unacceptable and a direct attack on the federal structure of the nation. I will take up the issue with the Centre for trying to impose such an anti-farmer condition on the cash-strapped state in the guise of extending fiscal support amid the COVID-19 pandemic”.
The issue has, meanwhile, triggered a war of words between CM and SAD president Sukhbir Badal who said the chief minister panicked under pressure created by farmers and SAD.
“It is nervous and desperate response of a chief minister who has been caught in the act. They have obviously panicked sensing impending resistance by the SAD and farmers to his cabinet's decision on replacing power with direct benefit transfer,” said Badal.
Terming the allegations as malicious and totally unsubstantiated, the CM accused Badal and his wife Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal of trying to pin the blame for the Central government’s misdemeanors on the state government. He demanded the resignation of the Union minister and added that the SAD should immediately quit the NDA as it was the government of India that took the decision directing the states to withdraw the free power.
“If you have even an iota of shame, you should leave the NDA coalition immediately, and join my government in working for the people of the state,” the CM said.