New Delhi: Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Thursday sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s support in allowing the state government to sell its surplus power to Pakistan or Nepal in the economic interest of the cash-crunched state.
The Chief Minister, at a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi here, also sought the Centre’s support in making agriculture more sustainable for the farmers in the state by putting in place a Deficiency Price Payment mechanism to encourage a shift to non-paddy cultivation.
Expressing concern over the problems faced by the Punjab farmers living in border areas, Captain Amarinder also requested an increase in central government compensation for such farmers, to ensure effective and stronger border management.
The Chief Minister further sought Modi’s intervention to prevent the 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 youth and revive the state’s economy.
Pointing to the 1000 MW surplus power availability in Punjab after meeting its internal demand, the Chief Minister said sale of power to neighbouring Pakistan, or Nepal as the case may be, would save the citizens of the state from the burden of any extra taxes, and also save the electricity 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 Pakistan on continuous basis, the Chief Minister noted. He further 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.
Though the Punjab State Power Corporation Ltd. (PSPCL) has, in the recent past, offered supply of power in tender enquiries floated for the purpose, it has not been successful in the same, said Captain Amarinder, urging 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 were suffering from declining real farm incomes due to agricultural stagnation, the Chief Minister stressed the need for diversification of farming away for paddy. Though high yielding maize hybrids, coupled with increase in area under maize cultivation, holds great promise, the same is not viable for the farmers in the absence of assured procurement at MSP, said Captain Amarinder, seeking financial support from the Centre for farmers compelled to sell their maize produce at a price lower than the MSP. His government, said the Chief Minister, was willing to work with any agency designated by the Centre for this purpose, in order to facilitate the desired shift in cultivation.
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. This leads to significantly sub-optimal yields, necessitating higher compensation for the farmers than the current Rs. 10,000 per acre per annum, said the Chief Minister, also calling upon the central government to bear the entire burden of the compensation instead of requiring the state government to share 50% of it. He urged the Prime Minister to advise the Union Home Ministry to take immediate steps in this regard.
Captain Amarinder also expressed concern over reports of the ongoing efforts to revive the package of concessions for the neighbouring states of Himachal Praesh and Jammu & Kashmir, and urged Modi’s intervention to ensure that no such special package is 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, he 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.
The Chief Minister urged the Prime Minister to consider the state government’s requests in the larger public interest and keeping in view the development needs of Punjab.