Punjabs first steps towards a modicum of cost recovery will garner Rs 300 crore. Energy sales to the agricultural sector is around 5,200 million units which in a regime of giving this free to its farmers cost a whopping sum of Rs 1,600 crore. The latest tariffs stanch this haemorrhage although much will indeed depend on how the states chief minister deals with its political backlash. For a sense of perspective, the power tariff was pegged at Rs 65 per BHP in 1994, which was later reduced to Rs 50 per BHP in 1996 before being waived off completely by the Prakash Singh Badal government since 1997. There have thus been sharp swings in the efforts to make Punjabs politically powerful farmers pay even a modest tariff. The states example flew in the face of conventional wisdom that farmers were ready to pay for quality and uninterrupted power. But not any more, as the state cannot even pay for coal for electricity generation. Not surprisingly, the Indian Railways have threatened to stop coal supplies to power generation plants. With a bankrupt fisc, there are limits to populism in the power sector. There is no way that Punjabs chief minister can go back to the status quo ante on free power to its farmers.