No, the Punjab government has not announced a ‘massive plan’ which will relieve the public of paying for electricity

Article shared old news about Punjab government solar projects with misleading headline

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Claim: An Urdu news website published an article with a headline that translated into English reads as,Public doesn’t need to pay electricity bills now. The government has announced a massive plan.” The article states that this year the Punjab government will put PKR 2.63 billion towards the launch of 21 new solar projects which will see schools, government offices, shrines and jails switching to this renewable form of energy.

Fact: The headline is false and misleading as the government has not announced any plan under which the general public will not need to pay electricity bills. The body of the article is also misleading as it refers to ongoing or completed projects which the Punjab government started between 2018-2020, not in 2022.

On 9 February 2022, Soch Fact Check received a link to a website article published by Urdu news website Digital Pakistan. The headline of the article stated, “Public doesn’t need to pay electricity bills now. The government has announced a massive plan.” The body of the article states that 21 new solar projects will be launched this year under which schools, government offices, shrines and jails across the province will switch to solar energy. However, these solar energy projects were not launched in 2022, but rather between 2018-2020.

Soch Fact Check spoke to Mr Mansoor Elahi, Public Information Officer at Punjab Energy Department, who clarified that the news regarding the switch to solar energy is old news as the majority of the projects mentioned in the article have been completed or are in their final phases. In 2020, the Punjab government under the “Access to Clean Energy Investment Program (ACEIP)” started solarizing 2,324 Basic Health Units (BHUs) and 15,000 Higher Secondary Schools across the province. Mr Elahi confirmed that around 10,000 government schools and a few public universities have made the switch to solar, while BHUs are in the final stages of adopting the new energy systems. Mr Elahi further explained that the government this year signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the solarizing of Jails.

Virality: 

Digital Pakistan was not the only platform to publish misleading news regarding the Punjab government’s massive plan which will allegedly relieve the public of paying electricity bills.  The same news with the same headline was also published here, here, here, here, here, and here between 30 January to 10 February 2022.

Soch Fact Check also conducted a CrowdTangle analysis which showed that the news story was first published in July 2021 by  Urdu new website Tazakhabren. Between July 2021 and Feb 2022, the article received 26,979 interactions across 107 posts on Facebook.

Conclusion: The Government of Punjab is carrying out solarizing projects across public institutions in different phases, but there is no plan under which members of the public will no longer have to pay electricity bills. Further, the government launched most of the projects mentioned in the article between 2018 and 2020, not this year.

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