Our Bureau

Visakhapatnam, Jan. 17

FREE power should be given only to the poor farmers and "freebie culture should not be encouraged," Mr Digvijay Singh, former Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh and AICC General Secretary in charge of party affairs in Andhra Pradesh, has said.

He made the remarks at a meeting of the city corporators here on Monday, fuelling speculation that the State Government might dilute its election promise of free power to the farm sector and restrict it only to small and marginal farmers.

Mr Singh said there was no justification for free supply of power to the rich farmers who could afford to pay for it. He said subsidies should reach the target group and those who did not need them should not be allowed to make use of them.

Mr Singh also favoured fixing of water meters in urban areas and charging a reasonable rate for supply. "Nothing should be given free. It will encourage wastefulness. However, the deserving groups should not be deprived of subsidies," he clarified.

Later, when reporters drew the attention of Mr K. Kesava Rao, President of the Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee, to the remarks of Mr Digvijay Singh at a meet-the-press programme, he said nothing more should be read into the remarks than what Mr Singh explicitly stated.

"We all agree that subsidies should reach the target group. Of course, we will not go back on our election promise. But our power generation capacity should also be taken into account. The demand for free power far exceeds the supply. Then the basic law of economics comes into play," he said.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated January 18, 2005)
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