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Post nudge from Congress high command: Running out of time, Amarinder wakes up to free power promise

Seeks plan to provide free 200 units to all households — a promise he made before 2017 Assembly polls; orders outside purchase ‘at any cost’, sanctions Rs 500 cr to PSPCL

Written by Kanchan Vasdev | Jalandhar |
June 26, 2021 10:42:10 am
Amarinder Singh, Punjab news, Punjab Power, Punjab Congress, Amarinder free power promise, Indian expressPunjab CM Amarinder Singh. (File)

TWO DAYS after Congress high command asked CM Amarinder Singh to look into providing 200 units of power free to all domestic consumers in the state, the CM has directed the Finance and the Power departments to prepare a plan at the earliest. The directions were issued at a high-level meet to review the power situation in the state.

During the meeting, the CM directed PSPCL to purchase deficient power from outside the state “at any cost” to prevent any supply disruption in the ongoing paddy sowing season. He also directed the Finance Department to release Rs 500 crore to PSPCL to tide over the financial crunch faced amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

PSPCL officials informed the meeting that it was facing a severe financial crunch as a result of slowdown in consumption and revenue collection in the last one year due to the pandemic crisis.

According to a government statement, Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal, who was present at the meeting, assured that his department would release these funds without delay.

Notably, during the past few days, the farmers at various places have staged dharnas outside the power grid stations claiming they were not getting eight-hour supply in the paddy sowing season as had been assured.

State officials, meanwhile, are learnt to have told the CM that free power up to 200 units to all households will cost the state exchequer Rs 2,000 crore.

“We do not know what decision would be taken, but we will go with the detailed plan in the next meeting,” an official privy to the discussions said.

The state government already has a fat bill of power subsidy to the tune of Rs 10,000 crore. This year, the power utility has pending dues of Rs 5,000 crore towards the government. The issue of dues were raised during the meeting on Friday, when the Chief Minister asked the officials about the shortage of power to the agriculture. The officials said that they could not purchase power because the utility did not have funds.

The CM then directed the Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal to release Rs 500 crore immediately.

A Venu Prasad, Power Secretary, Punjab told The Indian Express, “We had requested the CM about funds. He immediately ordered that we should be given Rs 500 crore. We are sorted for the rest of the season now. We are committed to provide 8 hours of uninterrupted supply to the farmers.”

He blamed freak weather events of June 10-11 and the closure of a unit of Talwandi Sabo thermal plant for the current crisis. “It took us many days to repair. At places, we are still repairing as the damage was huge,” he said about a hailstorm that recently hit the state.

Also, Prasad said that the water level was going further down in the state and more power was required to pull out water from deeper bore wells.

Sources in the government also said that the agitation of employees was also a contributing factor. The employees were not answering to complaints and the repair was being delayed.

“For instance, if there is a fuse issue, there is no manpower to go to the sport and repair it. Nobody is answering to calls of farmers. This was leaving the farmers agitated,” a source said.

Prasad also appealed to the agitating PSPCL employees to call off their protest in the larger interest of farmers and power consumers of the state.

(WITH INPUTS FROM ENS, JALANDHAR)

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