Union food processing industry minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal today asked chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh to restart the Bathinda thermal plant, saying a State asset which was capable of being run till 2029 after an Rs 715 crore renovation, should not be allowed to go to seed.In a statement here, the Union minister said it was shocking that a plant, for which the erstwhile SAD-BJP government secured Rs 715 crore for renovation from the centre, was now being closed arbitrarily. “We ensured renovation of the plant to add life to it and did so successfully but the State government has not cared two bits about wasting such a colossal sum by closing down the plant. In the given light it seems this has been done only to sell away its assets, including 2,000 acres of prime land, for commercial gain by vested interests”.Telling the chief minister about the Congress party’s stand on the issue, the union minister said finance minister Manpreet Badal had held a gate meeting at the plant in the run up to the last elections and promised workers that it would be run on full load. “Now the same individual has made out a case for closing the thermal plant by mouthing lies that power was being produced @ Rs 11.5 per unit and that the government was incurring a monthly expenditure of Rs 1300 crore to run the plant. This is nothing but a conspiracy to disband a State asset for ulterior motives”, she added.
Mrs Badal also told the chief minister that the State had a social responsibility and that it could not displace 2,000 workers just to satisfy a whimsical decision. She said these workers were being displaced from their home and hearth to far flung places. “Many of these are contractual employees who cannot afford to go to work at far off places”.The union minister also pointed out that Central Electricity Authority (CEA) guidelines were being wrongly quoted to make out a case for closing the plant. She said CEA guidelines spoke about retiring non-reheat units of 100 mw or less while the Bathinda plant had units of 110/120 mw with reheat cycle. She said the CEA guidelines also stated that wherever repair and maintenance has been done such plants should not be shut down. She said all four units of the Bathinda plant had been renovated at different stages. She said CEA has similarly never stated that renovated units should be retired before their life cycle is completed.Speaking about long term projections, Mrs Badal said the State was likely to be power deficit by 2022 considering availability of all four units of the Bathinda plant as well as generation of an additional 5775 mw power which may not come about. “Loss of 460 mw of power from the Bathinda plant will worsen this deficit”, she added.