Wednesday, July 12, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Power supply and populism

THE editorial “Costly Punjabi power” (July 3) highlights some of the key issues relating to power tariffs. The Rs 240 crore hike in revenues would be over a nine-month period — July, 2000, to March, 2001. Our association had urged the board to revise tariffs as early as November-99. Had these been revised from April 1, 2000, the board would have gained Rs 80 crore. In 2001-2002 the additional revenues will be Rs 320 crore, provided thefts don’t increase.

In waging an all-out war on the theft of energy certainly there were no financial constraints, and even now the board as well as the government prefer to keep a low profile. Dedicated police stations were not set up nor is there any move to set up special courts or give magisterial powers to PSEB Flying Squads.

To generate one unit of electricity it takes 0.7 kg of coal costing Rs 1.30 at the station terminals, and Rs 1700 crore a year is spent on coal purchase. Nearly Rs 1,000 crore worth of energy is purchased every year at rates that go up to Rs 3.50 or Rs 4 per unit. Out of a total revenue of Rs 4500 crore per year, Rs 2700 crore or 60 per cent is spent on coal and power imports.


The days of cheap and abundant hydro-power are over, with energy charges from the latest hydro-power station of the NHPC at Uri, costing Rs 4 per unit, which is even costlier than thermal energy from the NTPC. With this scenario, the theft of energy (costing Rs 2.50 per unit) is no less serious than robbing a bank or a treasury. While it had almost become fashionable to indulge in theft (particularly in energy-intensive cases such as tubewells and airconditioners), nobody really looks upon such people as dacoits. The fact remains that whoever is stealing energy is driving a small nail into the coffin of the PSEBs finances. Those board employees (of any rank) who connive with others in thefts deserve summary dismissal, for which departmental tribunals are required. An estimated 2000 to 3000 million units of power is lost through thefts annually. Instances of FIRs, arrests or dismissals are too negligible. Just as in J&K there have been no convictions in terrorism-related cases, in Punjab convictions for the theft of energy are negligible.

There is a very thin dividing line between populism and outright bribery. While Rs 65 per BHP per month for tubewells was itself a highly subsidised rate, covering roughly 20 per cent of the cost of supply, to make energy totally free is highly questionable.

The cost of Rs 1500 crore per year is being borne by the PSEB while the benefits are reaped by those who contested the elections. Free power has shattered the board’s finances, making the quality of supply to the rural areas poor (as there are no funds for maintenance and augmentation works). It is a widely accepted fact that the farmer would not mind paying a reasonable rate for tubewell supply provided the quality and reliability of power supply are ensured.

The proposal to segregate generation projects will create profit islands and cause a direct hike in consumer tariffs. For example, while the Ropar thermal station supplies the state’s energy requirements at the cost price, its energy rate is substantially lower than any NTPC station since the NTPC charges a 16 per cent rate of return.

General Secretary
PSEB Engineers’ Association

Law must for the aged

The views of Mr R.K. Jain (“Legal protection must for aged”) in The Tribune of June 27 and of Mr S.P. Jain (“Father’s Day”) carried on July 7 should be an eyeopener for the government which does not tire of expressing its concern for the aged.

The undesirable greedy sons and their spouses with their inflated ego make the fag-end of their life worse than hell. In spite of both being energetic earning hands, having sufficient resources to have their own residences and having already got enough cash from their unfortunate parents by giving threats, they still cling to them like blood-sucking leeches and have an evil eye on their self-acquired property. They do not let them pass the evening of their life at least with some peace with their own hard-earned savings and in their own residences.

As such, for the safety of the aged, the government must enact a law making it mandatory for such sons along with their heirs to leave the residence of their parents, who in many cases are even liquidated by fair or foul means. The government should also ensure that they do not automatically inherit the movable and immovable property of their parents, including cash, unless there is a clear registered will in this regard.

Those unfortunate aged who do not have their own houses and resources to fall back upon should be accommodated in old age homes and given financial help in the shape of pension.


Careless about helmets

Helmet-wearing has been made compulsory to avoid fatal accidents. Those who do not abide by the rule are challaned and thus put to a lot of inconvenience.

It has been seen that the general public is not concerned with its safety. People wear helmets only when they see that there is checking by the police. Often they keep the helmet on the foot-rest or with the pillion-rider.

Many police and military personnel also do not wear helmets. Are they above the law, or are their lives not precious?



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