Friday, February 2, 2001,
Chandigarh, India






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PSEB pays workers for no work
From Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

PATIALA, Feb 1 A cash-starved Punjab State Electricity Board continues to pay wages to as many as 14,000 workers rendered idle after the construction of the Ranjit Sagar Dam, even though there is no hope that their services will be utilised for the construction of the barrage at Shahpur Kandi downstream as envisaged earlier.

This is because the board has exhausted its borrowing limits and there is no money available for construction of the barrage at Shahpur Kandi, estimated to cost Rs 1600 crore.

This means that besides having to pay an idle workforce because it has no money to start the barrage project, the PSEB will not be able to generate power at its peak level for several years from Ranjit Sagar till the barrage is not constructed. Any attempt to generate more than 100 to 120 mw, as is being done at present, will result in the water flowing to Pakistan as the dam irrigation system is far from complete.

Sources said the board was paying a few crores in salaries to the workers every month. The workforce at Ranjit Sagar had been absorbed by the board to ensure the workers were not demoralised during the fag-end of the project and continued to put in their best. As the barrage at Shahpur Kandi was also to come up, it was felt the workers could be employed on that project. The barrage was to come up over a period of five to six years.

However, even as the workers have been rendered idle and only a fraction of the power output of 600 mw is being generated, nothing is being done to ensure that the Shahpur Kandi barrage comes up speedily. Board Chairman G.S. Sohal, when contacted, said a part of the workforce was being employed at the dam site for construction of civil works.

It had been suggested that the workers be employed on downline projects. However, this proposal had also run into rough weather as Rs 1150 crore were needed for the Upper Bari Doab Canal (UBDC), This money was not available. The PSEB Chairman said it was now proposed that the barrage be constructed through a joint venture or on build operate and transfer (BOT) basis. The board had to formulate these proposals as its borrowing limits had been exhausted in financing Stage II of the Lehra Mohabbat Thermal Plant.

Though, the PSEB Chairman said, low level of rainfall was responsible for the present low generation, sources had indicated the dam would not be able to run near its peak capacity of 600 mw except when excess water was available during the monsoons. At present only one 150 mw unit out of four such units was working at a constant rate. The very purpose of the dam, that maximum electricity be generated during the peaking hours in the morning and the evening, had been negated as water could not be released en masse from the dam during peak hours in the absence of a barrage downstream.Back

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