• Promise of free power to farmers raises concerns in Punjab

    Experts and social bodies have objected to Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) announcing free electricity to farm sector for 12 hours and have asked the party to review the decision in the larger interests of Punjab. The decision, if implemented, would have far-reaching consequences especially on the fast depleting groundwater in Punjab, they warned.

    NGO Safal Bharat Guru Parampara has asked AAP not to go for the political populist measure, but to ensure judicious use of groundwater to save it for future generations. The NGO had approached the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in February 2014 to stop the government from releasing tubewell electricity connections to save the groundwater.

    Safal Bharat Guru Parampara chairman P K Rana said, “Out of 145 blocks in Punjab, 110 have been put in the overexploited category where drawing of groundwater is not in the interest of future generations. While granting permission for releasing tubewell power connections in July 2015, the NGT had asked the government to use groundwater very cautiously. Now AAP has gone further in robbing the coming generations of precious groundwater. We will approach the Supreme Court against this decision.”

    Punjab has nearly 14 lakh tubewell power connections and its water table is falling by 80-88 centimetres per year.

    Gurbir Singh Dhillon, former chief engineer with irrigation department, termed the action of AAP as highly objectionable. He said, “Punjab is passing through very tough times on the groundwater issue. Not only 110 out of 145 blocks are in dark zones, but 45 blocks have been notified under red zone, where as per law water only for drinking purposes can be pumped. More free electricity will further aggravate the situation.”

    AAP MP Bhagwant Mann said, “We have studied the issue. Farmers need electricity for farm sector to survive. If the experts have negative opinion, we will further approach them to know more about it.” Otis Sistrunk Jersey

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