M A I N   N E W S

Region sizzles as power plays truant
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 27
Rising temperatures across the region have thrown life out of gear, forcing harried citizens to protest, in hot and sultry conditions, against long and unscheduled power cuts. While both Punjab and Haryana are facing nearly 10 hours of power cuts, the Punjab government has been forced to change its office timings. Industry in the state is on the verge of closure, while farm lands have turned parched and dry, resulting in an emergency-like situation.

Strong protests by the industry in the state notwithstanding, the Punjab Government has ordered the closure of all industrial units in Ludhiana for three days a week. With all four units of the Guru Nanak Thermal Plant tripping in Bathinda due to overloading today, the situation appears grim. The people seem to have given up all hope of an early end to their woes.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has issued an appeal to the people today to bear with “the tough measures taken by the state government in the wake of power crisis due to a delayed monsoon coupled with high demand for power especially in the farm sector due to transplantation”. The demand for power in Punjab has increased to 8,170 MW today as compared to 6,083 MW at this time last year.

While towns like Mohali and Panchkula are facing an eight to nine hours’ power cut, making life hell when the mercury has crossed 44 degrees Celcius at most places, the situation in remote towns of Punjab and Haryana is even worse. There is, however, a silver lining in the meteorological office’s prediction that the monsoon may actually be only two days away. It has put the tentative date of the arrival of monsoon in this region at June 29, while clouds were expected to eclipse the sun in some parts from Monday. Hisar town in Haryana has so far been the hottest in the region with the mercury at 45.2°C. Most other towns like Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ambala, Karnal, etc have been recording around 42°C for the past many days.

Amritsar: With delayed monsoon and an intense heat wave engulfing the region, prolonged and unscheduled power cuts have made life miserable for the residents of the holy city. This has also resulted in shortage of water supply, compounding the problems being faced by the people here.

With power cuts ranging from 10-12 hours per day, trade, industry and the business community have been hit hard. Their cost of production has gone up as they have to increasingly use diesel.

Meanwhile, District Youth Congress Urban led by its president Dinesh Bassi today burnt an effigy of Chief Minister Badal and the ruling combine for its failure to bring any respite to the public by purchasing power from other states.

The SAD-BJP government had failed to provide even five-hour power supply to the farmers, says Mukhtar Singh of Rajewala village, adding that they did not require free electricity but 24-hour power supply.

Bathinda: Giving a jolt to the PSEB, which is already finding it tough to cope with the power crisis, all four units of the Guru Nanak Dev Thermal Plant (GNDTP) tripped here on Saturday.

It took more than seven hours to restore the generation at all units in their normal mode.

Being the most crucial period of demand for power, the units (110 MW each) were running at their optimum load. With the simultaneous breakdown of the whole plant, the loss is being estimated in crores of rupees.

An engineer of the GNDTP said on condition of anonymity, “Each unit generates one lakh units per hour on an average. The state is already reeling under a power crisis. Now, such a huge loss of power units has taken place due to the callousness of some members of the staff.”

GS Sra, member (generation), PSEB, said, “We are primarily concerned with the restoration of power generation. The loss will be estimated at a later stage”.

Mohali: Fresh orders of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) to impose three-day compulsory weekly off has come as a shock for entrepreneurs of several export units here who are running against deadlines to deliver consignments.

Also projected as an IT destination, power cuts are also affecting software exports. BS Anand, president of the Mohali Industries' Association, said with the industry remaining closed for three days, the workers have already started protesting as the entrepreneurs are unable to pay them for the hours when the industry remains closed

The government is not taking any measures to support the already ailing industrial units in the state. "The government should take appropriate steps to ensure uninterrupted power supply to the industries in Mohali otherwise we will be left with no other option but to stage protests," said Amardeep Sharma, another entrepreneur.

Ludhiana: The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) has ordered a three-day weekly off for industry in the city. Criticising the government for “targeting” the industry, unit owners alleged that it was favouring big commercial establishments.

Power situation worsened recently due to wrong policies of the government, feel industrialists. The government was providing free power to rich farmers living in luxury, while small-time entrepreneurs, reeling from recession and labour shortage, were not being supplied electricity to run units.

Varinder Kapoor, general secretary, United Cycle Parts Manufacturers Association, said power was being given free of charge to rich farmers who live in huge havelis (bungalows) with several air-conditioners installed. They travel in luxury cars and wear branded clothes. Do they deserve free of charge power?

“The government is targeting the industrialists. Small-time entrepreneurs have to run units in the absence of sufficient labour. Power shortage has added to their woes,” said Kapoor.

President of the Apex Chamber of Commerce and Industry PD Sharma said this decision would hit hard the already troubled industry. The government must impose power cuts on commercial establishments, but these were not being touched due to vested interests.

“Shopping time could be reduced by one hour more for two or three weeks. Neon signs could be disallowed for this period. Big malls are guzzlers of power and these can run on captive generation. These steps could save the industry. The Punjab government must review the decision for the sake of industry,” said Sharma adding that prolonged power cut on induction furnaces made steel-producing units to raise the price abnormally.

(With inputs from PK Jaiswar, Rajay Deep, Rajmeet Singh and Shivani Bhakoo)



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