Tuesday, December 31, 2002, Chandigarh, India






National Capital Region--Delhi

THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
M A I L B A G

PSEB restructuring needs to be debated

REPORTS appearing in a section of the media indicate that the Punjab State Electricity Board is likely to be restructured and unbundled as is the case with most of the State Electricity Boards in the country. This is contrary to the declared policy objectives of the present Congress government in Punjab, which stands for reforms in the PSEB within its existing structure.

The SEBs were created under the Industrial Policy Resolution of 1956, which was authored by Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India. The objectives set forth in this resolution have largely been achieved although a general crisis of character in Indian polity engulfed the affairs of the states and its enterprises after the mid-seventies. This phenomenon eroded the autonomous character of the SEBs and these boards were made dumping grounds for defeated politicians in many states.

In such a situation, the commercial objectives of these organisations were given a complete goby and populist measures were considered more important. This resulted in reckless recruitments, increasing the salary bill. Bad investment decisions increased non-productive assets. A far-reaching effect of this dilution of the objectives of the creation of the SEBs was increased governmental interference and the consequential spread of the malady of corruption which came to encompass all spheres of the activities of these boards. The level of corruption here was a little higher than that prevalent in the PWDs from where these SEBs had been carved out.



 

Entrenched corruption gave rise to public distrust and cynicism and the resultant lack of public support failed to check the government from enforcing pricing decisions on the SEBs, which were highly unremunerative. The result is the financial unavailability of the SEBs, and the need for reforms.

The talk of reforms has made the planning and execution process under the existing arrangements quite sluggish. The result could be a power famine in the years to come.

Now the programme of restructuring and unbundling the boards has come handy. There is no concrete proposal or provision to modify the work culture or the mindset of the employees who can make a turnaround possible only if a favourable investment climate is generated. There is no statutory provision in addition to the existing provisions under the Indian Electricity Act of 1948 to curtail government interference in the working of the boards.

A cursory look at the working of unbundled boards shows that the government interference has, in fact, increased. As a result, there is hardly any perceptible improvement in the power supply position from the consumers’ point of view except for escalating the cost of power.

In the above backdrop, it is imperative that a thorough public debate on the restructuring of the Punjab State Electricity Board is held.

S.C. CHABBA, Ropar

Modi strategy for HP

There has been a lot of comment in the newspapers regarding Mr Narendra Modi and his camp followers’ successful campaign being repeated in Himachal Pradesh. There is excitement and apprehension in various political quarters and the question uppermost in everybody’s mind is if the heady Modi brew shall work in Himachal or not. It is difficult to gauge the potency of the Modi Mantra right now, but some basic facts need to be stressed.

The BJP has almost completed five years in power and Professor Dhumal has got a reasonably long innings to prove his mettle, or otherwise, as administrator and leader. Overall appraisal, in my opinion, is that it has been a mediocre administration, no different than the earlier administrations.

There has been an ongoing failure of various Himachal governments in properly managing the finances and in the development of a single significant industrial or service-cum-urban settlement due to diverse regional pulls. The administration is torn and guided by numerous petty issues and has also not been able to build competent organisations capable of utilising the state’s immense natural resources.

The goodwill for the present regime is mainly due to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s the interest in the welfare of HP, appreciated by the Himachalis. If Mr Dhumal were voted to power again we would expect a more mature and competent administration befitting a modern state, and not an administration suitable for an overgrown village.

KRISHAN KUMAR, Tang Narwana, Kangra

Injustice in justice

This refers to the editorial “Petrol bomb!”, Dec 23. After upholding the Supreme Court’s judgement on the well-known petrol pump case, The Tribune has hit the nail on the head by asking, “Why even in the notorious PPSC case, those who got through without having anything to do with Ravi Sidhu, have been shown the door”.

By drawing a parallel between the two cases, the paper calls this judgement a ray of hope. But it is something more than that to the person like the cobbler’s son, who had made it with sheer hardwork and had nothing to do with the notorious Sidhu & Company.

The words used in the editorial have proved to be a shot in the arm for the innocent victims. The judgement of the Supreme Court has pilloried the Central Government for acting with undue haste and in an arbitrary manner by a blanket cancellation of allotments. In exactly the same manner the Government of Punjab, without a moment’s thought, dispensed with the services of all PCS officers — the tainted and the innocent — without “separating the grain from the chaff”. A more glaring case of injustice in justice can hardly be found.

R.K. BHARDWAJ, Chandigarh

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