More than 600 villages in Punjab are reeling under acute drinking water crisis for the third consecutive week as their local bodies have failed to clear power supply dues to the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL).
The PSPCL officials said that they had to collect a whooping sum of Rs.235 crore from the local bodies.
They, however, said, the power connections of around 50 villages have been restored after their Municipal Councils have deposited Rs.100 crore.
Sources further said that the dues were pending since the tenure of previous Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) -Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) government which was voted out of power on 11 March.
The officers further said that the supply to at least 300 villages out of 3,500 being maintained by the panchayats and around 275 centres out of 4,200 maintained by the Water supply and Sanitation Department (each centre caters to three or four villages) was affected.
"We are in the process for restoring the connections of those villages where bills have been deposited. We have recovered Rs.100 Crore out of a total outstanding dues of Rs.230 crore. The average collection these days was more than Rs.2.50 crore daily and we expect the situation to be normal within a week," director distribution, PSPCL, K L Sharma, told The Statesman.
Sources said that in Abohar district only, PSPCL officials had issued notices to 74 villages for payment of dues amounting to Rs.5.1 Crore. Similarly, bills worth Rs.175 Crore from consumers in Muktsar and Fazilka districts were due.
Of this amount, Rs.110 crore is due towards 1.45 lakh individual consumers and Rs.65 crore towards government departments.
Ashwinder Pal Singh Khaira, a Sarpanch of Laksian village, 35 kilometers away from Jalandhar said, "It is the negligence of civic authorities who have not deposited the bills on time. Due to this, the common public is forced to bear the brunt. Over 10,000 population of six villages has been affected due to the shortage of water," he said.
Similarly, a sarpanch from Muktsar district, said, “We have been warned for water disconnection. We are in the process to deposit an outstanding bill of more than Rs.13 lakh."
A thousand number of villagers are grappling with water shortage, particularly, after February 4 Punjab Assembly polls as PSPCL spearheaded its campaign to collect arrears from government entities.
Departments, including police and civil administration in Bathinda, Muktsar and Mansa itself had an outstanding power bill around Rs.140 Crore.