Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has said the power purchase agreements signed during the earlier Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP regime are under review and the government will soon announce its legal strategy to counter the agreements.
The power crisis for which the government had to cut down its office timings earlier this week, has become a political issue, with the opposition Aam Aadmi Party prominently incorporating it in its campaign for next year’s assembly elections.
The Chief Minister, who is in charge of the power ministry, blamed the previous government for bringing the state under unnecessary financial burden by signing these agreements. He has also indicated that the transmission system was in a shambles, which worsened the situation.
Of the 139 PPAs (Power Purchase Agreements) signed during by the SAD-BJP government, 17 were enough to cater to the state’s electricity requirements, said Amarinder Singh. The remaining 122 agreements, ensuring 1314 MWs of “expensive power were inexplicably signed”, putting unnecessary financial burden on the state, read a statement from his office.
Stressing his government’s commitment to ensure that the situation is quickly eased, the Chief Minister said the power distribution system in the state had improved significantly over the past four years. Two lakh new Distribution Transformers have been installed, taking the total figure to 11.50 Lakh. Transformers have also been installed at the sub-stations to keep the supply stable, he added.
On Saturday, the Akali Dal took a dig at Amarinder Singh over reports of rebel Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu’s unpaid power bills.
“Captain saab, if you have got some time from harassing the people of Punjab with power crises, then please pay your attention to the minister who has pending electricity bills worth lakhs of rupees. And shower your blessings upon him,” the SAD had tweeted.
Navjot Sidhu owes Rs 8,67,540 to the Punjab State Power Corporation, according to records. However, this did not stop Mr Sidhu from targeting Amarinder Singh over regulating office timings and suggested the government can overcome the crisis if it worked in the “right direction”.
On Thursday, the Punjab government slashed the timings for government offices and cut down on power supply to high energy-consuming industries as demand soared to over 14,000 MW a day.
The Chief Minister has asked power department employees to call off their protest, which has aggravated the crisis, with complaints of breakdowns resulting from overloading of feeders and sub-stations not being sorted promptly.
A three-member committee to resolve the grievances of the protesting employees has been constituted.
A section of leaders in the Punjab Congress unit have been up in arms against the Chief Minister, suggesting that his government’s failure to fulfil the Congress manifesto has upset the voters, who will remember it during next year’s state elections.
The three-member central panel has suggested that before the state polls next year, the Chief Minister should also take corrective measures — especially in reducing power bills, among others.