Updated: March 2, 2020 11:04:08 pm
With Punjab Cabinet ministers demanding to see the White Paper on power scenario before it is tabled in the Vidhan Sabha, the government is in a dilemma whether to table it in this session or postpone the move. The state’s Congress government had announced a White Paper after being cornered by the opposition over back-to-back power tariff hikes.
The government was preparing to table the White Paper in the Assembly on the last day of the Budget Session after CM announced that it will be brought in before the session ends. A final decision is now pending in view of the CM’s statement, though the government is keen to postpone bringing it to the House. The document has not been printed yet.
The draft was taken to the Cabinet meeting on Monday, but a few ministers said that they were given too little time to absorb it, adding that government should not rush it.
A Cabinet minister is learnt to have told the meeting that the government has filed a curative petition in the Supreme Court against the earlier SC judgment that asked the government to pay coal washing charges to the private thermal plants. The case was coming up for hearing in mid-March. The thermal plants too have filed a contempt petition in the SC which is also coming up for hearing the same day. The government would have to pay Rs 500 crore annually to thermal power plants for coal washing charges if the state loses in SC.
The minister told the Cabinet that the government should wait and see the outcome in the SC instead of rushing with the White Paper. A few Cabinet ministers were of the opinion that the White Paper should not be left to the bureaucrats alone and political input should also be taken.
Sources said officials of the concerned department have been working overnight for past two days to prepare the White Paper in time. On Friday, after the presentation of the Budget, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had also held a meeting with Cabinet ministers and Advocate General over the issue.
Several ministers have been pressing the government to bring the White Paper in this session while the CM had earlier announced that it would be tabled in the Monsoon Session of the Assembly. Following pressure from these ministers, the government was rushing with the White Paper and it was decided that it would be tabled on the last day and the discussion over it would be done in the next session. But there were opposing voices that said the discussion should also take place in the same session.
It was in January that the CM had said that his government would bring a White Paper to expose the “fraud committed” by the Akalis in Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) with private players which in turn was the reason that Punjabis were being burdened with high power tariffs.
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