TN govt opposed to removing free power supply to farmers: CM Palaniswami writes to PM Modi

Chennai (Tamil Nadu) [India], May 18 (ANI): Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on Monday wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to put the proposed amendments to the Electricity Act in abeyance saying that the state government is strongly opposed to the idea of taking away free power supply to farmers.

"I have raised the issue in the context of the proposed changes in the Electricity Act. Our government is strongly opposed to the idea of removing the Free Power Supply to farmers. It has been our stand that the mode of disbursement of subsidy should be left to the State governments themselves," Palaniswami said in the letter on Monday.

He said that linking the Central government's power under Article 293(3) of the Constitution to permit additional borrowing by the States to conditionalities is unprecedented.

"Aggressively pushing a reform agenda on which a consensus is yet to be developed at a time when States have approached the Centre for additional borrowing out of sheer desperation, is not in keeping with the spirit of co-operative federalism," the letter said.

"Ideally, the proposed reforms ought to have been discussed in detail with the States, a consensus developed depending on the specific conditions in each State and the reforms linked to special Central Covid grants, and not to additional borrowing by the State," it added.

Palaniswami said that States have sought the additional borrowing limit, beyond 3 per cent of GSDP mainly because of the significant shortfall in revenues due to the lockdown imposed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"There are also large additional expenditure commitments. These are borrowings by the State Government, which have to be repaid from future tax revenues of the States. They are not grants from the Centre. To attach needlessly demanding conditionalities to the additional borrowing requirements appears to be unreasonable," the letter said.

The Chief Minister requested Prime Minister Modi to instruct the concerned ministries to remove the requirements to reform the power sector from amongst the proposed conditionalities and also to allow greater latitude to States in implementing a reform agenda.

He said that the State government has already undertaken the reforms without expecting any financial assistance, there are some areas, most specifically in the area of power distribution reforms, which are politically sensitive.

"Imposing needlessly onerous conditions on borrowings will constrain the State Governments in finding funds to meet essential expenditure in the wake of a serious financial situation. I am confident you will appreciate and understand the difficulties that States face at this time and instruct that the necessary changes are made," the letter added.

He also thanked the Prime Minister for announcing the five tranche of economic relief package, and said that additional allocation for MNREGA and for establishing Infectious Diseases Blocks in district hospitals and public health laboratories at block level are significant measures.

Palaniswami had, earlier this month, wrote to PM Modi urging him to prevail upon the Ministry of Power to put the proposed amendments to the Electricity Act in abeyance till they were thoroughly discussed with the State governments after the coronavirus pandemic subsided. (ANI)