Tuesday, June 24, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Expose vested interests in power reforms

In his article “Power reforms to empower people” (June 10), Mr Gajendra Haldea has rightly said that vested interests in the power sector reforms need to be exposed. Mr M.G. Devasahayam maintained the same stand in his article “Reforming Punjab’s power sector” (May 26).

The Haldea Committee, in its report, has incorporated high ideals couched in nice words, to serve the interests of common people. In fact, all the exercise has been done to serve the interests of a few. It is said that people will have the alternative to choose their source of supply. However, this option will be possible only for a few and not to the general public.

The farmers’ cause has been exposed in support of privatisation, but where is the underground water left in Punjab to be exploited by encouraging more tubewell connections? It is said that the expert committee report is aimed at improving the lot of the people by ensuring better supply at cheaper rates. But the common man has always been exploited in the name of the people and the expert committee has used the age-old mantra.

I wish somebody in the committee knew the ground realities of managing a distribution system. Putting forth ideas in a report alone will not ensure improvement and the quality of power supply to the consumers. A commercial organisation entering into the power sector will be interested in good returns on its investment. Matching investment in this sector will not provide equivalent return.

Punjab’s politicians did not realise the consequences and failed to take corrective action in time. This is the reason for the PSEB’s present state of affairs. Make the PSEB autonomous and let the right people, who understand the knitty gritty of managing a power system, handle it. It will then regain its old glory.

Nirvair Singh, Former Engineer-in Chief, PSEB, Patiala



I would like to compliment The Tribune for encouraging a debate on power reforms. I request Mr Gajendra Haldea to dispel the following doubts: First, according to Mr Haldea, the state government has not yet approached the World Bank or other donor agencies for assistance where as Punjab Finance Minister has acknowledged (The Tribune, June 9) that Punjab is about to receive Rs 5,000 crore from the World Bank. Is Mr Haldea more privy to the state government’s decisions than the FM?

Secondly, it is mentioned that the expert group did not foresee any privatisation in the near future which implies that unbundled corporations will continue for a minimum period of 5-6 years and will be entitled to 16 per cent profit. How much reduction in theft of energy (9 per cent approximately) and reduction in T&D losses (18-19 per cent as per PERC) will offset increase in cost of supply due to multiplicity of profits (3x16 per cent= 48 per cent) by the corporations in comparison to nil profits allowed at present to all the three combined i.e the existing entity?

Thirdly, is electricity usage comparable to telephonic conversation and aviation flights and will the western model of reforms and the Open Access hypothesis be successful in a nation facing perpetual shortage of power?

And finally, Mr Haldea would perhaps understand better than general public that for real competition to exist, five to six equal size players (of the size of Tatas and Reliance) are required, which may not be possible in the present scenario. International experiences like California Blackout have proved that oligopoly is much worse than regulated monopoly. From where will competition come?

The clarification of these quarries is vital in the public interest. Moreover, it is feared that even if all the predictions of the expert group come true, then, bulk consumers forming less than 1 per cent of population may be benefited after a period of 5-6 years but the rest will have to shell out a greater portion of their earnings for using an exotic and luxurious commodity like electricity, ultimately leading to incapacitation of the poor to use electric power as a basic necessity.

Sarabjit Singh, Bathinda


This has reference to the article “Urgency of reforms in power sector”. I do not agree that adding element of multi-buyer to the failed model of Orissa will prove to be a miracle for the power sector. First, Northern India does not have surplus power which is a must for the multi-buyer system. Secondly, multi-buyer system, when applied in California in 1998, has resulted in blackouts due to market manipulation by profit hungry private players.

The main reason for the failure of the PSEB is its political mishandling. Why did the PSEB go under debt in the first place? The answer: free power and increasing power theft. Suffice it to mention, both the major political parties (the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Congress) had promised to continue free power in their election manifestoes during the 2002 Assembly elections. Economic advisers kept strategic silence at that time. Later, free power was withdrawn by the Congress government and the Akalis did nothing more than shedding crocodile’s tears. What a moral lead to the nation!

On the power theft front, most politicians, Mr Singla in particular, blames PSEB employees. The Akalis, in 1997, had rejected the proposal to set up special police stations to handle power theft cases. And now the Congress government is against anti-theft legislation. Thus, both the traps aimed at putting power thieves and their officers behind bars were scuttled by their own political patrons. A judicial probe into hundreds of transfers every year of suspicious officers on the recommendation of politicians will speak volumes about the nexus. All these factors are resulting in inefficiency, corruption and theft.

Electricity has become the fourth basic need of human society after food, shelter and clothing. Having seen the fate of power reforms in Orissa and seven other states, I appeal to the politicians not to dismantle the PSEB which is the temple of social service as the fault does not lie in the structure of the PSEB. I request the employees to serve their bread earners, the consumers, the best way and religiously.

Hapreet Babbu, Bathinda


The continuing increase in the power tariffs must make every citizen cautious regarding the power thefts across the country. The people are not perhaps aware of the fact that a single unit of power stolen by any one of the consumers, burdens others. The same is the case when the metering of power is faulty due to defective energy meters.

In routine life, everybody ignores power thefts in our surroundings on the ground that it is the duty of the state electricity boards/corporations to check and stop power thefts. This can only be possible with the participation of all at the grassroots level.

S.K. Kansal, Ropar


Contradictory record

Apropos of the letter by Surendra Miglani (June 16), the figure of 6000 songs mentioned by the writer after quoting a few film and music authorities is far too off the mark of 25000 songs for which the legendary singer’s name made it to Guinness Book of Records along with Lata Mangeshkar.

The careers of Lata and Rafi were almost parallel by the time the landmark of 25000 songs was reached by both. I am sure the authorities of the Guinness Book of World Records must have substantiated the figure before deciding the entry. May be someone else can throw more light on this controversy. In any case the late singer deserves to be honoured with the Dada Sahib Phalke Award.

Brig. H.S. Sandhu, Panchkula


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