The Punjab government Saturday announced 300 units of free power for households in the state every month from July 1, but with a caveat that they will have to pay the full bill if their usage exceeds 600 units in two months.
However, scheduled castes, backward castes, below-poverty-line households and freedom fighters will be charged just for the usage over and above 600 units.
Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann made the announcement here on Saturday, fulfilling one of the key poll promises of the Aam Aadmi Party.
The party's national convener Arvind Kejriwal had promised free electricity up to 300 units for the state during his election campaign in June last year.
The move will put an estimated additional burden of Rs 5,000 crore on the state exchequer.
The Aam Aadmi Party said the scheme will benefit 80 per cent of domestic category electricity consumers in the state.
"From July 1, 2022, each household in Punjab will get free electricity of 300 units per month. And it will be 600 units for two months," the chief minister said in a video message on Saturday, when his government completes one month in office.
Mann further said if electricity consumption exceeds 600 units in two months, then a consumer will have to pay for the entire power usage.
But the scheduled castes, backward castes, below-poverty-line households and freedom fighters will be charged just for the usage over and above 600 units, the chief minister added.
"For example, if they consumed 640 or 645 units, then they will pay for 40 or 45 units," added Mann.
Punjab has a two-month billing cycle for power supply.
The SC, BC, BPL families and freedom fighters (around 21 lakh consumers), currently getting free 200 units each month, will now get 300 units of electricity monthly, said Mann.
The state's information and public relations department put out advertisements with the announcement in various newspapers published Saturday morning.
Mann also announced waiving off electricity bills pending till December 31, 2021 of those households having up to two-kilowatt load.
Moreover, he said there would be no increase in the electricity tariff for industrial and commercial consumers while free power to the farming community would continue.
The Punjab chief minister further said his government would ensure round-the-clock supply to every village and town in two-to-three years. He said his government would also provide the cheapest electricity in the country to the state's consumers.
Mann said free electricity will help every household save money which they can spend on children's education and meeting other needs.
He said his government would honour each promise made with the people.
Meanwhile, talking to the reporters here, AAP senior leader and MLA Aman Arora said the announcement of free electricity will benefit around 80 per cent consumers.
He said there are a total of 73.50 lakh domestic consumers in the state, and the scheme will cover 61 lakh families.
Power utility Punjab State Power Corporation Limited has worked out that around 61 lakh domestic houses consume less than 300 units per month.
To a question on why general category consumers are charged if their power consumption exceeds 600 units in two months, Arora said it was done in order to ensure proper utilisation of electricity and prevent its misuse.
He said that consumers could witness electricity consumption exceeding 600 units in summer but in the rest of months, their consumption can be lower than that.
To another question, Arora said that this move would put an additional financial burden of Rs 5,000 crore on the state exchequer. "But this burden will not be passed on to consumers."
Punjab has a total financial burden of around Rs 14,000 crore per annum on account of subsided power to various categories, out of which, the subsidy bill on account of free electricity to the farming sector alone is around 7,000 crore.
There is a subsidy bill of Rs 4,000 crore because of Rs 3 per unit rebate in electricity tariff implemented by the previous Congress government and free power of 200 units to SC, BC, BPL families and freedom fighters and Rs 3,000 crore for giving power to the industrial sector at Rs 5 per unit.
AAP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Raghav Chadha, in a tweet, said what was promised has been honoured.
Mann had met Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in the national capital on Tuesday to discuss the modalities of providing free electricity for up to 300 units in Punjab.
Kejriwal had later met senior officials of Punjab, including chief secretary Anirudh Tewari, to discuss the modalities.
Kejriwal said the state government will "save money" by ending corruption and put Punjab on the path of progress.
"The AAP does what it says and does not make false promises like other parties," he said, congratulating Mann for his government's decision. "An honest and patriotic government with clear intentions has come in Punjab. We will not allow lack of funds come in the way of progress," he said.
(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)