Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) legislators on Thursday cornered the state government on issues of inflated power prices, Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) with private power companies, travel agents and stray cattle menace with their call attention notices, even as Congress members supported the opposition saying the questions raised were “justified”.
To the call attention notice about high power prices, PPAs with private power companies in Punjab, given by Leader of Opposition (LOP) in the Vidhan Sabha saying that the agreements were not being annulled even though these were causing a huge loss to state exchequer, and the burden was transferred to common consumer. AAP MLA Aman Arora said the four private power companies charged Rs 2700 crore annually from the state even if the power produced by them was not consumed. He said in 25 years, the state would end up paying them Rs 70,000 crore.
Power Minister Gurpreet Singh Kangar blamed the previous state government, saying that these companies were “white elephants” indeed given to Punjab by them.
Cheema reminded Kangar that Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, in his pre poll promise had announced to do away with these agreements. He asked the minister to answer whether the government was going to do this or not. Kangar, however, remained non-committal. He conceded that the government had to shell out Rs 446 crore to private players even as the state did not consume the power.
As AAP’s Gurmeet Singh Meet Hayer said that government did not order a probe in the matter, former Power Minister and Congress MLA Rana Gurjit Singh also joined the AAP saying in next 25 years the state would end up paying Rs 62,500 crore to these private companies.
He blamed the bureaucrats for not advising the government accordingly and not annulling the agreements. “Inquiry cannot be done because officials do not let that happen. The ministers change with the government but officials remain the same,” he said.
Kultar Sandhawan, another AAP MLA, raised the issue of inflated bills to which Kangar replied that the bills that many people had not cleared their dues of a few years as Akalis had promised a waiver if voted to power. He said the bills of last two years would be reviewed, stating that they had already taken up the matter with the Finance Minister.
In another call attention notice, AAP MLA Aman Arora raised the stray menace, adding that it had led to an escalation in road accidents. Of the total number of deaths occurring on the roads, 150 were attributable to the presence of stray cattle, besides crops worth Rs 200 crore being damaged by them. Animal Husbandry Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said that they had equipped the Nabha Semen Bank with semen sorting technology which will pave wave for preferred sexed semen. It would help in birth of only female calves, thereby checking the stray menace.
As Lok Insaaf Party MLA Simarjit Singh Bains raised the issue of ‘gau charand’ land in various districts being illegally occupied, Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu called the question “justified” and said in the state land sharks, which were mostly influential people had usurped 70,000 acres of public land.
Suspended AAP MLA Kanwar Sandhu raised the issue of unscruplous travel agents operating in the state.
Replying to this concern, Parliamentary Affairs and Health Minister Brahm Mohindra said the government had cracked down in a big way against unscrupulous travel agents to register 2140 cases under various Acts since it came to power in March 2017.
On the recent case of four Kapurthala youths being fraudulently sent to Armenia by a group of travel agents, Mohindra apprised the House that three accused agents had already been arrested under the Punjab Prevention of Human Smuggling Act 2012, and said the remaining would be apprehended soon. All the victims had returned from Armenia and safely reached their homes on February 9, Mohindra informed the House.