Amid protests by opposition parties, farmers and other consumers against the power cuts in Punjab, former minister Navjot Singh Sidhu hit out at his own Congress government in the state on Friday, raising questions over its handling of the electricity supply situation.
In nine tweets, the Congress MLA said that there is no need for power cuts in the state or for the chief minister (Capt Amarinder Singh) to regulate office timings or AC use of the common people if the government acts in the right direction.
Also read: ‘CM, Sidhu will have a working arrangement’: Harish Rawat
The state government had on Thursday announced measures such as the curtailment of timings of government offices from 8am to 2pm and two-day weekly offs for industrial consumers besides appealing for limited use of ACs.
Sidhu, who has been critical of Capt Amarinder Singh and his own party’s government in recent weeks, said that he is sharing the truth of power costs, cuts, power purchase agreements and how to give free and 24-hour power to the people of the state.
Capt Amarinder Singh holds the power portfolio.
Had quit cabinet when given power portfolio
Sidhu’s latest attack comes two days after he had one-on-one meetings with former party president Rahul Gandhi and general secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who are said to be keen on giving an important role in the state Congress to him.
Ironically, the Amritsar East MLA had quit the cabinet in 2019 after his portfolio was changed from local bodies to power and new and renewable energy. He had refused to take charge of the departments.
Blames over-dependence on three private thermal plants
Questioning the high power purchase cost in his tweets, Sidhu said that Punjab is buying power at average cost of ₹4.54 per unit, whereas the national average is ₹3.85 per unit and Chandigarh is paying ₹3.44 per unit. He blamed over-dependence on three private thermal plants at ₹5 to 8 per unit for this. “The (previous) Badal Govt signed PPAs with 3 private thermal power plants in Punjab. Till 2020, Punjab has already paid ₹5,400 crore due to faulty clauses in these agreements and is expected to pay ₹65,000 crore. People’s money just as fixed charges,” he tweeted.
Says amend law to cap power purchase costs
Advising the state to purchase power from the national grid at much cheaper rates, he said the PPAs (with independent power producers) are acting against Punjab’s public interest. “Punjab may not be able to re-negotiate these PPAs due to them having legal protection from the courts. But there is a way forward. Punjab Vidhan Sabha can bring in new legislation with retrospective effect to cap power purchase costs to prices available on the National Power Exchange at any given time. Thus, by amending the law, these agreements will become null & void (sic),” he wrote.
The MLA said that Punjab’s revenue per unit of consumption is one of the lowest in India, due to gross mismanagement of the complete power purchase and supply system. “The Punjab State Power Corporation Limited pays ₹0.18 per unit extra on every unit supplied, even after receiving over ₹9,000 crore in subsidy from the state,” he tweeted, advising the state to harness renewable energy which is becoming cheaper and also environment-friendly.
Takes on Kejriwal, says state needs original Punjab model
Commenting on Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s promise to replicate the Delhi model of power supply in Punjab, Sidhu advocated an original Punjab model to tackle the state’s power problem.
“Punjab already gives ₹9,000 crore power subsidy but Delhi gives only ₹1,699 crore. If Punjab copies the Delhi model, we will get merely ₹1,600-2,000 crore as subsidy… Punjab needs an original Punjab model, Not a copied model (sic),” he posted.
He said money spent on giving unreasonable profits to private thermal plants should be used for the welfare of people, giving power subsidy for free power up to 300 units for domestic use, round-the-clock supply and to invest in education and healthcare.
On Tuesday, Kejriwal had also promised 300 units of free electricity for each household in the state, waiver of pending power bills and round-the-clock supply.