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Thursday, August 05, 2021

Summer outages spare no one in Punjab, rile consumers across rural, urban pockets

Farmers staged dharnas outside several grid stations claiming they were being denied assured 8 hour supply in paddy sowing season.

Written by Raakhi Jagga | Ludhiana |
Updated: June 25, 2021 6:51:29 pm
Punjab farmers protest, BathindaFarmers protest against the frequent power cuts outside Multania power grid in Bathinda. Express Photo

A day after Congress high command asked Punjab CM Amarinder Singh to work towards reducing high power tariffs in the state, power consumers in both urban and rural areas were up in arms over frequent outages amid peak demand.

Through the day, farmers’ gheraoed several grid stations across villages, domestic consumers complained of frequent power cuts even as industrial consumers in urban areas fumed over hefty penalties being imposed over minor overloading.

Farmers protest across villages

Farmers staged dharnas outside several grid stations claiming they were being denied assured 8 hour supply in paddy sowing season.

A dharna was organised by farmers at Multania grid in district Bathinda on Thursday morning. Six villages — Multania, Naruana, Bir Behman, Jai Singhwala, Baho and Mian – have been complaining that they are not getting 8 hours of supply. The dharna continued till late in the evening and was lifted after officials assured of improved supply from Friday. The protest was organised by BKU (Ugrahan) and BKU (Dakaunda).

A similar dharna was organised outside the grid station of Chhiniwal village in district Barnala where farmers under the banner of BKU (Kadian) protested over the same issue being faced by several villages in the area.

“SDO was given a memorandum and he committed that 8 hours power supply will be resume from Friday,” said Jagseer Singh Chhiniwal, a leader of BKU (Kadian).

He added, “We even got grids operational on our own after farmers gathered at the grid stations in large numbers. We can’t let our crops turn dry. We are burning diesel to water the crops.”

Ajaypal Singh Atwal, general secretary of PSEB Power Engineers Union, said, “We need security as it is not a conducive environment for power engineers to work at grid stations as they are being gheraoed for no fault of theirs. Already, we are facing shortage of manpower, shortage of material for repair works and now protests are a direct threat to the officers sitting in grid stations. They are being humiliated.”

On Sunday, Jhumba village of Bathinda has seen a similar protest. A week before that, there was another protest in Peori village in Muktsar district. On Thursday, PSPCL officials faced the wrath of farmers in Patiala too.

In Jalandhar, farmers allegedly forced their way into some grid stations and even threatened the staff.

Jagseer Singh Jhumba, BKU (Ugrahan) leader from Bathinda, said,

“Every day protests are happening in hundreds of villages of Punjab over poor supply as we have no choice because paddy crop needs water or our crop will get damaged and labour will run away.”

A dharna also took place in village Bhalaiana in Gidderbaha constituency of Muktsar district on Thursday morning where farmers protested against poor power supply to agriculture sector.

Urban consumers fume

Consumers in the urban areas of the state were equally unhappy. Both domestic as well as industrial consumers complained that “despite being paying customers” (agriculture power is free in Punjab), they were being shortchanged.

Mukhtair Singh, a resident of Gidderbaha town in district Muktsar, said, “Even after paying more than Rs 10 a unit, we face unscheduled power cuts almost daily. If it rains, then we have to spend the whole night without power. Even now there is a power cut in our area.”

Ram Kumar, a resident of Sarabha Nagar, a tony locality in Ludhiana, said, “Bad weather conditions and power cuts go hand in hand in our area. Though we don’t face unscheduled power cuts, but weather related outages are a big nuisance.”

Ranjit Singh, from Muktsar’s Kotkapura road, added, “Farmers keep on protesting for less power to agriculture sector. But people in urban areas have been facing power cuts that last around 4 to 5 hours at times.”

Pankaj Sharma, vice president of Chamber of Industrial and Commercial Undertakings (CICU), said: “On Thursday, due to bad weather power supply went off in focal point area for 3-4 hours. This is the situation every time it rains or strong winds blow. Preventive shutdown is undertaken by PSPCL which shuts the entire focal point for hours. It is very surprising that even after more than 70 years of Independence, our system is not even able to provide uninterrupted power supply. This really affects the work of industry. Moreover, these days, power engineers have exited all WhatsApp groups due to their pending demands, but this is affecting work of industry as well as officers have exited groups of associations as well and it is difficult to communicate with them.”

Even small-scale industrialists have been staging dharnas at various grid stations in Ludhiana over heavy penalties being charged for overloading charges.

“Even for a few kilowatts of excess load, industrialists have been charged penalties in lakhs. They have no choice but to stage dharnas. We are not getting proper supply, and are being charged heavy fines. We are already reeling under losses due to Covid,” said Sanjeev Gupta, general secretary of Association of Focal Point Industry. Upkar Singh, president of CICU, said, “Quality of power supply is very poor and it seems that regular maintenance was not done due to which we are suffering regular outages…It increases our industrial input cost.”

When The Indian Express contacted PSPCL CMD A Venuprasad, he said, “All mobile phones of officers are working, hence there is no problem in reaching out to anyone. There were some gaps in power supply to the rural sector and it was due to the failure of Talwandi Sabo thermal plant. Now it is resolved. We have given 8 hours power supply to the majority of agricultural areas on Thursday itself. “

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