A day after Punjab ministers raised the issue reviewing the power purchase agreements with private power plants, former Power Minister Rana Gurjit Singh Friday said that he had been raising the issue for over two years now, but never got support from those in the Cabinet.
“What is the point in raising the issue in the Cabinet now and write letters to the Chief Minister after SAD chief Sukhbir Badal accused the government of wrongdoing over something that his (Sukhbir’s) government had done?,” asked Gurjit.
He said, “When I held the power portfolio, we started studying the PPAs to take a call on their review. Later, I raised the issue in Vidhan Sabha. But I was the only one when I stated that Punjab would end up paying Rs 67,000 crore in 25 years to these three thermal plants. Not a single voice supported me. Was it not a cause for Punjab then?” he asked.
Rana Gurjit said that the government should take the case it lost recently in the Supreme Court to a logical conclusion, “We should hire a lawyer who would not get sold out to the private company. We should fight the case till the last possibility and not just let it go. Why should people of Punjab suffer for all these mistakes,” asked Rana Gurjit.
He added that there was always a way to renegotiate the PPAs. “We need to study the legal aspects and do it fast. If Uttar Pradesh government could renegotiate the PPAs, and get the price of every unit decreased by 20 paise, why cannot we do it?”
He termed as “bad” the decision of the previous government to set up coal mine at Sassan in Madhya Pradesh. “We end up paying so much on transport. It was better to set up a coal mine at the pit-head,” he said.
“The power costs Rs 2.25 to 2.50 at pithead. We are getting it for Rs 4.50 per unit. Why should Punjab consumers pay so much? Also, Akalis wanted to make Punjab a power surplus state but nobody studied whether we would need that much power or not. The PPAs bind us to pay fixed charged for 100 per cent production of the power while other states pay fixed charges for 80 per cent power only. We should fight the case well and not just buy time,” he said.
The recent power tariff hike in Punjab has brought into focus the issue of PPAs under which government has to pay fixed sustenance charges to three private thermal plants, and has put both Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in dock.
POWER ISSUE PUTS CONGRESS AND SAD IN DOCK
Ever since the power regulator hiked the tariff by Rs 36 paise per unit from January 1 onwards, the issue of PPAs has not only put both the Opposition SAD and the ruling Congress in in Punjab in the dock.
At the centrestage is not only the issue of PPAs but also the Supreme Court judgment in August directing the state to pay coal washing charges to the tune of Rs 2800 crore to a private firm running thermal power plants in Punjab. The state government is under attack for not “defending” the case well. Under fire, the government has now filed a curative petition in the Supreme Court.
The government did not get relief from High Court in another case in which EMTA Coal Limited has been seeking compensation for non-payment of the company’s dues by Punjab government through Arbitration Tribunal. The burden of Rs 1600 crore on account of this too would be passed on to the consumers.
Not only the opposition but also several ministers have raised the issue of the tariff hike and sought an inquiry into all these issues and review of the PPAs.
While Sukhbir Badal has accused the government of a “fixed match” for losing the case in SC and another in HC, the Congress leaders have been accusing SAD of a “fixed match” for signing agreements to “benefit the private companies.”