Tuesday, June 3, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Haldea reforms no solution to PSEB’s ills

Many facts were ignored and even distorted in the editorial “Costlier, unavailable power” (May 27). Contrary to The Tribune’s report that the PSERC Chairman has appreciated the board’s efforts to reduce T&D losses from 27.5 per cent to 25.61 per cent (May 24), the editorial has projected the losses at as high as 38 per cent.

While the PSEB’s losses are put at 25.61 per cent, the losses in the other states are — Haryana (33 per cent), Orissa (49.70 per cent) and Andhra Pradesh (31.8 per cent) where the so-called reforms have been implemented. The average domestic tariff during 2002-03 in Haryana was 388 paise, in Andhra Pradesh 430 paise in spite of the enormous aid from the government to power companies whereas in Punjab it was 240 paise per unit.

Further comparison of rates of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir with Punjab will be pointless because these hilly states depend on the cheapest form of electricity i.e. hydro power. They also have no thermal power plants like Punjab. Moreover, subsidised agricultural consumption in these states is negligible as compared to Punjab. The fact that free power to farmers and the Scheduled Castes from 1997-2002 cost the PSEB Rs 8,500 crore for which the board was not compensated despite promises by the state government.


As a result, the board was forced to borrow from the market. It had to pay Rs 2,845 crore as interest on loans from 1997-2002. This amount would have been sufficient to instal new thermal plants and improvement works to meet the demand and make supply reliable. The PSEB has to incur Rs 150 crore extra during the last year as it increased the agricultural power time from 8 to 10 hours due to poor monsoon rains. During 1997-2002, as many as eight Chairmen were shuffled.

There is no denying that there are no ills in the PSEB. Alarming power theft, poor consumer service, lack of modernisation, accountability, poor HRD planning are a matter of concern. But I don’t agree with the view that the solution lies in the implementation of Haldea reforms as these are based on the dictates of the World Bank and are proving to be counter-productive resulting in higher tariffs which poor Indians cannot afford. To undertake Haldea reforms, Punjab has to take loan from the World Bank, the repayment of which will result in unaffordable rates. The performance of the PSEB can be enhanced if professionals’ views are given serious thought.



Apropos of the editorial “Costlier, unavailable power” (May 27), the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission might not be able to pull the Punjab State Electricity Board out of the financial crisis just by revising the tariffs now and then. As admitted by the PSEB, the revenue gap for the year 2003-04 stands at a staggering Rs 1,862 crore, which is the direct result of misplaced policies of the government and the malfunctioning of the PSEB.

The PSEB has also earned the dubious distinction of having the highest employee-consumer ratio in the country with a huge surplus manpower. This has not only caused sloth and insensitivity in the system but also resulted in the steep rise in expenditure.

The increasing transmission and theft losses, combined with well-entrenched corruption and inefficiency, place the revenue build up at 60 per cent, thus leaving a large revenue gap which is conveniently passed on to the consumers. The government has to ponder over judiciously to what extent the consumers would be forced to pay for the inefficiency of the PSEB.

The implementation of the Haldea Committee report, as suggested in the editorial, will be a step in the right direction. Corporatisation of the organisation into PUNGCO to control generation, PUNTRANSCO to manage transmission with an efficient distribution system will mark a clear-cut division of responsibility and accountability. People do not expect the moon from the PSEB but they certainly yearn for smooth and uninterrupted power supply at reasonable rates. Even farmers won’t mind paying a little extra if they are assured of regular power supply for their tubewells.

Col. KULDIP SINGH GREWAL (retd), Patiala


With reference to Mr M.G. Devasahayam’s article “Reforming Punjab’s power sector” (May 26), I agree with him that there is a hidden agenda of private interests under the garb of public interest. The real motive behind the “power sector reforms” is to sell the public property. The government says that the PSEB is responsible for all its ills. But who runs it?

When it comes to giving free or subsidised electricity, the PSEB is a government department. But when it comes to curbing the theft, the government maintains that the employees are responsible for its ills. Are the employees above the government or the law of the land? The failure of the PSEB is the failure of the government itself.

Why was the Haldea committee packed with non-professionals who do not know the alphabets of power sector? The answer is obvious. The professionals will give logical suggestions to improve the system, which will not be implemented by those who want to loot the public property and run the government from behind the curtain. In fact, there is no place for professionals in the country.

It is a matter of concern that a failed model of reforms is being tried in Punjab with a lollipop of “open access”. The poor consumers do not know that open access is meant for only a very few top industrialists.

After the failure of such “power reforms” in California, the World Bank had suggested that in developing countries a vertically integrated system (like that of PSEB) is most suitable. Power sector is a very complex system. It is not meant for manipulating the votes. The World Bank report says, “Power sector reforms will come once in a generation.” These are irreversible and prove very costly to the nation. The result of such reforms are before us — in Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and so on. There is strong public resentment against these reforms in MP and Orissa. The Punjab government should make sincere efforts to curb theft, improve the system and other reforms suggested by Mr Devasahayam.

DARSHAN BADRA, Lehra Mohabat

Of Sikh leadership and politics

These days newspapers are full of reports on the deliberations of Sikh priests, issuing of edicts, imposition of religious punishment and the role of Jathedars. It gives an impression that the Sikh leadership and politics revolve around the priests and regulations and that the Sikhism is a fundamentalist and medieval religion which is far from reality.

The main mission of Guru Nanak and his nine successor Gurus was the worship of one formless God and the eradication of priestly class together with their rites, rituals and the caste system. Guru Gobind Singh, by his examples of administering Amrit to Punj Piaras as a guru and submitting to them to take Amrit, quitting Chamkaur Garhi at their bidding and appointing Punj Piaras as advisers to Baba Banda Singh Bahadur had indicated their role in the Panth. No Jathedars were appointed by him or by others. The Jathedari is the mistaken product of the Sikh Gurudwara Act of 1925 where this term is not even mentioned.

The Sikhism enjoins collective leadership. An individual can be corrupted but not a body of five approved persons. Till Sikhism comes back to the Guru’s approved concept of Guru Granth, Guru Panth, leadership and politics will remain murky.

Brig HARDIT SINGH (retd), Chandigarh


Tea production

It is a matter of great pleasure that tea production in the scenic Darjeeling hills in West Bengal has completed 150 years last year. Today, tea production in the area covers nearly 98,000 hectares of land. It is noteworthy that tea, perfumed and palatable, from Darjeeling have fetched Rs 10,000 per kilogram price in the international market.

Besides, there is one more reason for the people of Darjeeling to be jubilant. Recently, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway has been declared as a World Heritage by the UNESCO. Kudos to those at Darjeeling for their magnificent achievement.

AKSHIT TILAK RAJ GUPTA, Radaur (Yamunanagar)

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