In debt-ridden Punjab, the power subsidy bill is over Rs 10,000 crore, a large portion of which serves farmers. The AAP government plans to provide free electricity up to 300 units for every household from July 1. The generous giveaways cannot camouflage the state of affairs. Thirty-three government departments had outstanding electricity bills of Rs 62 crore as on March 31, the end of the last financial year. With arrears of Rs 22.48 crore, the biggest defaulter was the Water and Sanitation Department. According to the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited, around 40 police stations and posts have been found to be stealing power or failing to clear the bills. Customary warnings have been issued of snapping supply if the dues are not paid, but ‘public interest’ and ‘essential services’ will ensure that such an eventuality does not arise.
The substantial fine imposed on a dera stealing power in Tarn Taran, along with the registration of an FIR, is exemplary action that needs to be carried forward. Change is tough, but a new way of working begins with those in positions of power leading by example, be it fixing the payment mechanism, upgrading infrastructure, minimising the use of electricity or a gradual switch to alternative energy sources.