Ruchika M Khanna
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, June 22
Power consumers in rural areas of the state will now have to shell out more. The 10-15 paisa per unit hike in tariff, caused by the 2 per cent increase in electricity duty (from 13 to 15 per cent), will be in retrospective effect from April 1.
This is the third hike in less than a year. In October, he power tariff was increased from 6.68 per cent to 12 per cent; and in April this year, it was increased by 2.2 per cent.
Electricity duty on all categories of urban consumers was hiked by 2 per cent last year. Urban consumers in Punjab pay 20 per cent electricity duty, over and above the power tariff rate. “The decision to raise the duty on rural consumers was taken in order to bring uniformity in tariff for urban and rural consumers,” said A Venu Prasad, Principal Secretary, Power.
Official sources in the Power Department told The Tribune that the Punjab Council of Ministers had allowed a 2 per cent increase in the duty in March this year, which was necessitated to allow the state government to generate thousands of crores that it owed to Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) as power subsidy to agriculture pump-set consumers. It is learnt that the increase in electricity duty for the rural consumers in the state will bring an additional Rs 150 crore to the department, thus ensuring that the total electricity duty (20 per cent charged on urban sector consumers and 15 per cent on rural consumers) brings in Rs 1,125 crore per annum to the state.
The Finance Department rules say the electricity duty collected in the state is to be deposited in the consolidated fund of the state government. However, for the past several years, the PSPCL has been retaining the duty, so that it can be adjusted against the subsidy to the agriculture sector. The total power subsidy bill of Punjab for the farm sector alone is Rs 6,256 crore for 2018-19, while arrears from last fiscal too have to be paid.
“The PSPCL has been raising loans to meet its expenses. Availing further loans wouldn’t have been easier. Increasing the electricity duty was the only option it had,” a senior official in the state power utility told The Tribune.
News Courtesy : TOI,Tribune