SAD delegation led by Sukhbir Singh Badal returns handing over a memorandum to Governor VP Badnore, in Chandigarh on Wednesday. (Express Photo by Jaipal Singh)
Ahead of the two-day special session of Punjab Assembly beginning Thursday, the Opposition parties in Punjab upped the ante against the government over the hike in electricity tariffs with the AAP demanding the “scrapping” of power purchase agreements with private power plants and the SAD seeking a CBI probe into it.
Power tariffs in Punjab were increased by 36 paise a unit from January 1 for domestic consumers on account of coal-washing charges.
While Shiromani Akali Dal leaders met Governor VP Singh Badnore demanding that the government recommend a CBI inquiry into the “nexus between ministers, Congress leaders and officials in the Rs 4100-crore scam”, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders met Speaker Rana Kanwarpal Singh seeking permission to move a private member bill in the Assembly.
It was learnt that the Speaker issued a notice Wednesday suspending the call attention notices and private members bills in the session. Only legislative business would be taken up on the second day of the session before it is adjourned sine die.
Earlier, an Akali Dal delegation led by party chief Sukhbir Singh Badal submitted a memorandum to Badnore, alleging that the state suffered a loss of Rs 4,100 crore due to “willful connivance and large-scale corruption” by Congress leaders, ministers, higher officials and private power companies. They urged Badnore to direct the government to dismiss all ministers and officials who had dealt with relevant files. He also urged that the government bear the burden of the power tariff hike.
“The state had deliberately lost important cases in the court and the Tribunal after hefty amounts were taken by certain persons from private companies. This was achieved by concealing important information from the courts and misrepresenting facts to benefit private players,” Sukhbir alleged.
Earlier, the SAD had accused the state government of not pursuing the case against the release of coal-washing charges to private plants appropriately in the Supreme Court and had asserted that it was during their regime that Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Corporation (PSERC) and the Appellate Tribunal for Electricity had ruled in the favour of state-owned power utility.
Through coal washing, impurities like ash, soil and rock are removed from coal.
The SAD delegation alleged that the claims of coal washing cost were rejected at the level of PSERC and even the central authority APTEL during SAD-BJP tenure but after Congress government came into power it adopted a dishonest approach in the Supreme Court stating falsely that there was no methodology to measure the calorific value of coal at the project site. “This was a blatant lie as para 68 of the Supreme Court judgment of 2017 in Nabha Powers Limited versus PSPCL clearly states that calorific value of coal should have been measured at the project site,” the alleged.
Meanwhile, an AAP delegation led by Leader of Opposition Harpal Singh Cheema met the Speaker Rana urging him to allow them move a private member’s bill against the hike during the two-day Assembly session.
They claimed that the PPAs signed by the previous SAD-BJP government led to the hike in tariffs.The delegation also submitted a call attention motion to the Speaker, seeking the termination of the PPAs.
Sunam MLA Aman Arora accused the Congress-led regime of having failed to “scrap” the PPAs with private power plants despite promising it before 2017 assembly polls. “Until anti-people agreements are not tweaked, people would continue to face high power tariffs. Due to these agreements, the state would have to cough up a whopping Rs 70,000 crore even if private thermal plants do not produce a single unit of power. Why should people pay from their pockets for the wrongdoings of the subsequent governments, who have failed to take a call on the enormity of the situation?” asked claimed Arora.
In a swipe at Sukhbir Badal, the AAP leaders said his meeting the Governor over power tariff hike was a mere ploy to earn some political brownie points.