Ahead of the Punjab Assembly polls set for early next year, chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi has announced waiver of all pending water bills in rural and urban areas – a move that will cost the already burdened state exchequer around Rs 1,800 crore, with Rs 1,168 crore for rural areas and Rs 700 crore for urban areas.
“In a bid to cover lost ground, the government has to announce these people-friendly steps to ensure that rural and urban voters come back to the Congress fold,” a former Punjab minister was quoted as saying by News 18.
The state would also reportedly have to bear the additional cost of the government’s decision to not levy water tariff on a plot of up to 125 sq yards. The water tariff for all other categories of consumers has been fixed at Rs 50 per month per connection.
The Channi cabinet has also declared that the state would henceforth pay the power bills for public health tubewells to supply potable water in rural and urban areas.
“The government is committed to providing free water and sewerage facility to the people. Rs 50 fee has been fixed as per the Centre’s directive to charge for these services,” Channi told the media. “The government will also waive off power bill arrears of tubewells meant for public water supply in urban and rural areas. In future, the power bills of such tube wells will be paid by the Punjab government,” he added.
More such populist measures are likely to be announced by the state Congress government as well as opposition parties as Punjab gears up for the elections. The Congress has said that if voted back to power, it would ensure up to 300 units of free power.