Ridiculing SAD for indulging in political gimmickry over the recent power tariff hike, effected by PSERC in the state, Punjab Congress President and Gurdaspur MP Sunil Jakhar said the Akalis should stage protests in Delhi instead of planning dharnas in Punjab as the Prime Minister and other senior BJP leaders, along with the Badals, were the real culprits responsible for putting this burden on the people.Talking to media here on Saturday, the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) President said that this power hike had been forced on the people of Punjab by the Badals, who signed a tripartite memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the BJP-led central government and the PSPCL for hiking power tariff in the state every year. He said, “the real culprit is Sukhbir Badal, who signed the MoU under the UDAY scheme on March 4, 2016, in the presence of his alliance partner and union power minister Piyush Goyal, and agreed to hike power tariffs in Punjab on a yearly basis in order to implement the Ujwal Discom Assurance Scheme of the GoI”.As per the UDAY MoU, the Badals had agreed to a 5% hike in power tariff for 2016-17 and 9% for 2017-18. “Political compulsions, in view of the assembly polls, however forced the Badals, who had otherwise raised power tariffs to the tune of 77% during their 10-year rule, to not effect a hike in 2016-17”, he said, adding that they instead resorted to political gimmickry by slashing the tariff by 0.65% in that fiscal.
“If SAD is really concerned about the pains and problems of Punjabis, they should stop misleading the people and hold their proposed dharans at the houses of Badals, Modi and Piyush Goyal, who are the real culprits behind this hike”, said Jakhar, adding that the recent hike in power rates by PSERC are in line with the UDAY MoU. He said by blaming the Congress and Captain Amarinder Singh for this hike, the senior Badal was either trying to fool the people or was once again exhibiting the selective amnesia that he suffers from.He said that by signing this MoU, Punjab had not gained in any manner. He said that apparently the Badals had signed this MoU under pressure from Modi. “They gave in to Modi’s demands as they were scared that he may open some inquiry against them”, he said.The PPCC president said that another reason for higher power tariffs in the state was the “illogical” decision of the Badal government to sign Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) with private thermal plants at unreasonably higher rates. He said the Akali-BJP government signed PPAs with Sterlite for a 1980 MW Talwandi Sabo thermal plant, with L&T for 1400 MW Rajpura Thermal Palnt and with GVK for 500 MW Goindwal Sahib Thermal plant, and agreed to pay them exceptionally high Fixed Charges per unit.He said the Badal government agreed to fixed charges to be paid to these plants at much higher rates in comparison to other thermal plants in India of same/similar capacity and technology that were installed during the same period by the Congress Govt. led by Dr. Manmohan Singh. He revealed that Punjab was paying fixed charges @ Rs 1.35 per unit to Talwandi, @ Rs 1.50 per unit to Rajpura and @ Rs 1.93 per unit to Goindwal Sahib Thermal Plants, whereas fixed charges for Mundra thermal plant were @ Paisa 90 per unit and for Sasan thermal plant @ Paisa 17 per unit only.
He said that this data can be verified from the recent PSERC tariff order 2017-18 (see page 185 Sr no. 55, page 186 Sr. no. 56, 58, 59 and 60). He said as per the PSERC tariff order (Page 185-186), during 2017-18, Punjab is to purchase 6095 MUs from Talwandi thermal plant at a cost of Rs 3293 Cr., which amounts to Rs 5.40 Per unit, 1223 MUs from Goindwal sahib at a cost of Rs 1064 Cr, which works out to Rs 8.70 Per Unit, and 8694 MUs from Rajpura Thermal at a cost of Rs. 3302 Cr., which amounts to Rs Rs 3.80 per unit. He said in comparison, the cost for 4724 MUs from Sasan was merely Rs.1.32 per unit, and Rs 2.20 per unit for the 3162 MUs generated from Munrda.He said the Akali-BJP government, even Bikram Singh Majithia as its Minister for Renewable Energy and PEDA, and Sukhbir Singh Badal as the Power minister, signed PPAs at exorbitant costs with Solar and Bio-mass power plants also. Citing the PSERC tariff order (page 185), Jakhar said that during 2017-18 Punjab is to Pay Rs 1010 Cr for 1712 MUs solar power @ Rs. 5.90 per Unit and Rs 776 Cr. for 1459 MUs power from non solar (bio-mass etc), which works out to Rs 5.32 per unit.Responding to a question, the PPCC president said that that all these PPAs are being reviewed by the Capt. Amarinder Singh government and all efforts would be made to rationalise the power tariffs in the coming months.He also said that failure of the Badal government to operationalize Pachhwara Captive Coal Mine, which was allotted in Jharkahand, also led to higher power costs in Punjab. He said the Akali-BJP government’s failure to start mining cheap coal from the Pachhwara coal mine, allotted from April 2015, led to purchase of costly coal and power from private thermal plants and other private players.He said had the Akali-BJP government started mining from the allotted mine, coal to the state would have cost much cheaper, as the rates would have been much lower than that of coal supplied by Coal India, and would have resulted in cheaper power generation. He said that the state lost Rs 400 to 500 Cr per year due to this.He alleged that Badals had purposely not operationalised the mine in order to oblige the Adanis as his companies were used to import coal at exorbitant prices, causing losses to the tune of hundreds of crores of rupees to the exchequer.
“The Akalis, along with the BJP, have robbed the people of the state and have left it bankrupt”, he said, while not ruling out possibilities of the Badals having pocked crores of rupees for themselves in the process.He said during their entire decade long rule the Badal remained at the helm of the Power Ministry and they had appointed KD Chaudhri as Chairman of PSPCL for 7 years. He alleged that Chaudhri acted as the henchman of the Badals and caused immense financial loss to Punjab on the power front. Jakhar reminded the Badals that while power tariff during the previous regime of Capt. Amarinder Singh (2002-07) was raised by 22.51% (average 4.5% per year) in five years, they (the SAD-BJP) had effected a hike of 77.33% (average 7.73% per year) in their decade long misrule.Responding to a question on the demand by some Congress MLAs for initiating action against Majithia, Jakhar said that the Chief Minister had made it amply clear that the government cannot act without evidence. “Allegations are there but we are looking for evidence that can stand the scrutiny of the courts”, he said, adding that the Congress was sure not to repeat the mistakes that it committed in 2002 by taking hasty action.He said that no one should have any doubts about “our” intentions. “These people, who ruined Punjab, would meet their dark fates”, he said.Advising Parkash Singh Badal to refrain from interfering in the investigations and influencing the police in Kolianwali’s case by giving baseless statements, Jakhar lauded Capt. Amarinder Singh’s decision to depoliticise the police and the administration, and for insulating it from political interference. “Such a thing has never happened in the history of Punjab”, he said.