The outgoing chairman-cum-managing director (CMD) of Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL), K D Chaudhri, who resigned on Monday, says that in the seven years of his tenure, power situation in the state had vastly improved and it has a brighter future. He also defends himself against allegations of wrongdoing on the directions of the previous SAD-BJP government and says that his decisions were open to any fair investigation.
What do you count as the biggest achievements of PSPCL in your seven-year tenure?
The internal efficiency, technical and transmission losses have drastically come down in the past few years. The losses, including transmission loss, now stands at 14.6 per cent. Transmission loss is about 3 per cent and distribution loss 11.5 per cent. You will not find many power utilities in India having loss level of 11.5 per cent. It came down from almost 21 per cent to 14.6 per cent. The second most important thing is availability and reliability of power. Punjab is a power surplus state now and there is absolutely no problem. Now, we have a problem of plenty. But, still to operate the company in an efficient manner, we do go for purchase of power from outside. It may sound odd to you but we are getting cheaper power from the grid. We are getting power at rate of 2.2 paise per unit for paddy season while my own plants are producing power at Rs 3.50 per unit. This is the variable cost. We operate the company at that level purely on commercial and professional basis. If our own plants shut down, then it does not matter. That is why we were in profit for three years. But since there was no increase in power rates for almost past three years now, we are at a cash loss of around Rs 2,000 crores for 2016-17.
There have been questions raised on your decision to purchase power from outside while own plants are lying idle and it has been called a scam when Congress was in opposition. How do you respond?
We have long-term purchase agreements with the generators. If someone is saying that this is a scam, then all these agreements have been entered into before our time. But I will definitely say that there is absolutely no scam involved. How can scam take place at competitive bidding. The then leader of opposition used to say that our own plants were shut and we were purchasing power from outside. How can I run my own plant when power is way cheaper when purchased from outside. We are open to any inquiry. Let there be a fair investigation. There is absolutely no issue. As a professional, I can say with full authority and responsibility there is nothing wrong in it. All decisions are taken professionally and in the interest of the state.
The government has decided to appoint an IAS officer as the new CMD of PSPCL. Do you feel a power professional will do a better job?
It is the government’s prerogative to appoint a technocrat or an IAS officer. You see the journey of the present board of PSPCL from 2010 to 2017 and compare its position seven years back and what it is now. In my view, a technocrat would be suited better but, of course, that does not mean an IAS officer will not do as well.
There have also been allegations that you had been favouring functionaries of the previous government through your decisions.
They can say anything but I did not take a single decision against the laid down policy. I am ready to answer any question. But I will clearly say that nothing has been done beyond the rules. I did not take any individual decision and all decisions were by government directive and board approval. There were no questionable decisions. All board decisions were within the framework of rules. The previous government asked us to release connections for tubewells so we did it. The present government has asked us to stop and we have stopped.
Why did the corporation suddenly crack down on bill defaulters in the run-up to elections?
It was not sudden at all. We have been doing this every year and connections to waterworks and jails, etc., have been snapped earlier also. This was done to make them understand that they have to be alive to the situation and pay bills. However, this year, the media gave it a big hype and thus it appeared as if something new has happened.
How do you see the power situation in the state in coming years?
The power sector in Punjab is very vibrant. It will remain comfortable for years to come.