Saturday, June 28, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Corruption, the root cause of PSEB’s ills

The Punjab Government has given green signal to the Haldea Committee on Power Reforms making way for unbundling of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB). The government has claimed that the proposed structural reforms will result in cheap and quality power to the consumers in the state. It maintains that trifurcation of the PSEB and introduction of open access to power consumers is a panacea for all the ills afflicting the power sector in the state.

This is a wrong diagnosis. The mother of all evils afflicting the PSEB is well entrenched corruption in the organisation at various levels. The Haldea Committee Report makes only a peripheral reference to this malady and does not prescribe any antidote. It is common knowledge that power connections can be obtained by paying nominal bribes which determine the consumer’s capacity to steal power and to be able to get away with a song, if caught by the Enforcement Wing. Purchases and contracts are accompanied by payment of regular commissions. Even poor labourers have been defrauded of their EPF contributions by influential contractors in connivance with pliable officials. This is particularly distressing.

Against this background, any theoretical exercise in the name of reforms will yield negative returns. The revival of power sector depends upon result-oriented strategies and inculcation of an accomplishment- oriented culture in the PSEB or its successor corporations.


The bull of corruption has to be caught by its horns and has not to be allowed to graze freely. Finding scapegoats for failure of the power sector and that of the PSEB in lower agricultural tariffs or in monopolistic structure of the Board is an exercise in self-deception. One wonders why the Chief Minister’s crusade against corruption does not cover the PSEB despite reports focusing attention of the public on corruption in this vital organisation. The meter purchase scam, the EPF scam, the HT Motor scam and several other charges have perished after surfacing in news headlines or in the vigilance report register of the PSEB.

The need of the hour is to make an honest assessment of the economic consequences of corruption and introducing reforms to minimise these avoidable losses rather than to beat the drums of open access and that of separating wires and supply. In a commercially competitive environment, no organisation, whether in public or private sector, can survive amid unbridled and naked corruption.



I have been closely involved with the energy audit of the PSEB. A scheme of energy audit for 66 k.v. Rajpura was sanctioned by New Delhi’s Central Electricity Authority and the Ministry of Power. The Finance Ministry has released Rs 50 lakh to the PSEB for implementation. The total cost of the scheme was Rs 4.46 crore out of which Rs 2.23 crore was grant. The management has failed to implement the scheme as vested interests did not like it and the inefficient and the corrupt felt that it will expose them. I am sure, if the new Chairman gets things going, there will be no need for World Bank reforms.

Here is my desi mantra for PSEB reforms. First, implement energy audit. Secondly, deal with the corrupt ruthlessly. Thirdly, power theft and leakages should be curbed with an iron hand. Fourthly, If postings of officials on political considerations are stopped forthwith, results will follow. And finally, accountibility should be fixed on the officials and employees for irregularities.

R.P. SOOD, Chandigarh


Mending fences with neighbours

The differences between the visits of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to China and that of Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf to the US are quite glaring. The Beijing visit is between two equals to promote harmony, stability, trade and economic co-operation setting aside the past bitterness for the time being. The theme at Camp David, however, has been more of largesse minus F-16 for favours done.

Divergences of views between neighbours on the boundaries drawn by erstwhile powers are quite likely. However, the differences can always be resolved on the basis of give and take or taking into account the ground realities as has been wisely done for Sikkim and Tibet.

Mr Vajpayee has shown singular maturity and farsightedness in mending fences with neighbours. Cooperation between India and China which together constitute more than one-third of the human population augurs well for the entire world. None, especially Pakistan, should feel piqued about the new equations now emerging in the subcontinent.



Political decision

Call it “roll back” or anything else, political decisions often keep “shifting” for two obvious reasons: political pressures and administrative failures. The Punjab Government’s latest rollback in regard to the shifting of 10+2 classes from colleges to schools and back is a recent example. In this context, should one conclude that the government’s earlier decision was wrong and taken in undue haste without deliberating upon the issue seriously?

Since every political party takes resort to pouplism to win votes, there will be no end to such decisions. However, it would be in the larger interest of the nation if decisions — from fee hike to shifting of classes — are kept out of the ambit of political pressures. It is also time to make political leaders and officials accountable for every wrong or hasty decision.


Wrong comparison

Apropos of the report Badal flays CM’s stand on Mayawati’s visit (June 23), the remarks of the former Chief Minister are politically motivated. Comparing Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati’s visit with that of Mr Sunil Dutt is really unfortunate. While the former is a politician and a rabble rouser, the latter is a well known social worker.

Mr Sunil Dutt had demonstrated exemplary courage in carrying out a peace mission through his padayatra during the dark days of Punjab’s history when most of the leaders had gone underground. How can one suspect his sincere efforts in restoring normalcy in the violence-affected Talhan village? Above all, being a Punjabi, he couldn’t resist himself from visiting his state during troubled times.


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