Power cuts in Punjab: Akalis hold protests; official blames delayed monsoon

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Chandigarh, Jul 2 (PTI) The opposition SAD on Friday held protests in front of the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited offices across the state as it accused the Congress government of withholding eight hours of free electricity supply to farmers, imposing unscheduled power cuts in urban areas and ordering closure of industries twice a week.

The party demanded an immediate financial package for paddy farmers forced to use diesel generators besides an immediate reduction in value-added tax (VAT) on diesel.

“If these corrective measures are not taken along with restoration of regular supply of power to farmers as well as domestic and industrial consumers, the party will gherao the chief minister and ministers in the next phase of its agitation,” a party statement said.

Meanwhile, A Venu Prasad, Additional Chief Secretary (Taxation) and Chairman and Managing Director of Punjab State Power Corporation Limited, said the failure of private-run thermal plants to provide committed supply during the peak season has resulted in the power shortage situation in the state.

The delayed monsoon has also caused severe power outages in the state, he told a seminar here, adding that once rainfall comes, the situation would improve.

“Work from home and air conditioning demand have also increased significantly in view of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the official said.

Normally, we make arrangements up to 12,500 MW, but this year, keeping these problems in view, we made arrangements for 13,500 MW, he added.

SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal joined the protest at Lambi, Fazilka and Ghubaya and held Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh 'solely responsible for the plight of the people'.

He alleged the chief minister had not conducted a single review meeting of the power utility to ensure adequate supply of power to paddy farmers. He added that this was done deliberately to keep the subsidy bill down.

“The Congress government does not want to provide free power to farmers and this is the reason why it is not supplying power when it is needed the most,” he said.

Badal further said the state government did not make any attempt to ensure timely maintenance of thermal plants which had led to the closure of Lehra Mohabbat plant as well as closure of one unit of the Talwandi Sabo plant.

SAD leader and former Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal also participated in dharnas at Bathinda City and Sangat Mandi.

“The erstwhile SAD government had spent more than Rs 4,000 crore on upgrading the transmission and distribution system,” the party statement quoted Harsimrat as saying.

Meanwhile, AAP state chief and MP Bhagwant Mann announced that his party would gherao Amarinder Singh's Siswan farmhouse on July 3 to protest the power cuts in the state.

He said that on July 3, the people of Punjab would check the electricity metres of the Siswan farmhouse to find out how many hours of power outage was taking place there.

The AAP MP added that due to non-availability of electricity from tubewells, farmers were forced to carry paddy in their fields.

He held wrong power purchase agreements (PPAs) made by the Badals with private thermal plants and non-cancellation of the agreements by the present Congress government responsible for the power situation in the state.

He alleged due to the PPAs, private companies could shut down thermal plants at their own discretion and in case of closure of the thermal plants, the Punjab government would have to pay a fixed charge.

'So far, around Rs 20,000 crore had been paid to private power companies by fixed charge which had looted the exchequer of Punjab. Like the Badals, Captain Amarinder Singh is bent on ruining Punjab economically and filling his house,” Mann told reporters here.

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