One month at helm: 300 units of free power for households in Punjab
Chandigarh : On completing 30 days of its helm in Punjab on Saturday, the AAP government led by Bhagwant Mann announced 300 units of free electricity from July 1 for all categories of household consumers. This was one of the first crucial pre-poll sops announced by AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal on June 29, 2021. The state has already been providing free power to the farmers, besides 200 free units to the Scheduled Castes, Backward Classes and BPL families. In front-page newspapers advertisements in almost all major dailies, the government announced to provide free power, besides highlighting its achievements that comprise the launch of anti-corruption helpline, which Mann launched on March 23, the martyrdom day of freedom fighters Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru. Opening the helpline 9501-200-200 Mann, whose party swept to power winning 92 of the 117 seats, said people should not say ‘no’ if they are asked to pay bribe. Instead, they should make a video and send it to the given number, through WhatsApp.
The other prominent achievements include announcement to fill 25,000 new government jobs, regularisation of service of 35,000 contractual workers and the rollout of doorstep delivery of ration for the poor, the model the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi had tried to implement but had to stop following objections by the Centre. A day earlier, the government announced to transfer more than Rs 2,000 crore to the bank accounts of farmers towards minimum support price (MSP) payments. A government statement said Rs 828 crore had already been transferred to their accounts so far The timeline for another major pre-poll promise of providing a stipend of Rs 1,000 per month to all women above 18 years of age is yet to be made public by the government. This bonanza is likely to cost over Rs 15,000 crore annually to the government whose financial crisis is set to worsen with a debt likely to cross Rs 3,00,000 crore. Banking largely on freebies to woo the electorates, the AAP had also promised to suitably compensate financially Anganwadi and ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activists) workers.
After staking claim to form the government, Mann promised AAP would provide a good Cabinet and make historic decisions. However, the ever increasing salary and pension burden and rising debt and interest leave scope for development, admit officials. As per official figures, the total outstanding debt of Punjab as on March 31 was projected at Rs 2,52,880 crore, which is 42 per cent of the GSDP for 2020-21 and the outstanding debt is likely to be Rs 2,73,703 crore in 2021-22, which is 45 per cent of the GSDP. Twenty per cent of the annual budget is being spent only to pay the interest on the loans. As per the latest findings of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, the state’s financial crisis is set to worsen with the debt likely to reach Rs 3.73 lakh crore by 2024-25. The government officials told IANS that the state’s debt has increased by Rs 1 lakh crore in the past five years under the previous Congress government, largely owing to populism.
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