Ahead of the Assembly elections in the State, the Shivraj Singh Chouhan governmenthas rolled out its biggest-ever waiver for the poor and labourers.

Under the Chief Minister’s Power Bill Surcharge Waiver Scheme, outstanding electricity bill worth Rs. 5,179 crore would be waived off in July and August and cases of electricity theft registered against defaulters would be withdrawn by the government.

“People were not able to get electricity during the tenure of the previous government. We have made arrangements for sufficient electricity supply. The poor suffered from electricity bill arrears more than the monthly bills. The State government has decided that the arrears would be waived off during camps in July and August and they would be given certificates of zero electricity dues,” Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said while presenting such certificates to some beneficiaries at an event held here on Tuesday.

According to an official, so far, 16 lakh beneficiaries have been registered for electricity bill waiver scheme.

Energy Minister Paras Jain said, “Outstanding bill of Rs. 5,200 crore is being waived off in the zero electricity bill scheme.” About 81 lakh families will benefit from the scheme, he added.

A day ahead of the launch of the scheme, Mr. Chouhan through videoconferencing told his Cabinet members, administrative officials, MLAs and public representatives that under the Saral Bijli Yojana, registered labourers will be given electricity bill at a flat rate of Rs. 200 per month.

Opposition attack

Questioning the timing of the launch of the scheme, ahead of the Assembly polls, the Opposition Congress has asked the Election Commission to look into the matter.

“Over 1.8 crore residents have been registered as poor under the Mukhya Mantri Jan Kalyan (Sambal) scheme. The beneficiaries would be given a smart card with the picture of Chouhan (Chief Minister) on it, having a validity of five years even though a new government will be place in a few months. We have requested the EC to order that the cards would not be printed and distributed as it will be another publicity campaign for the Chouhan government and a waste of public money,” Manak Agrawal, media coordinator of the Congress, said.

The scheme is seen as a counter to the Congress’s loan-waiver promise to the farmers announced by party president Rahul Gandhi at a rally in Mandsaur in June.

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