North India has been hit by a severe heatwave leading to high power demand in Punjab. Due to the ongoing coal shortage and rising temperatures, the state is standing on the brink of a blackout as the power generation has slumped.
Despite assurances, the government is not able to maintain a balance between availability and the ever-growing power demand, according to an India Today report.
Punjab has nearly 7000 MW of in-house power generation capacity. This includes 5880 MW of thermal power generation. Currently, the inhouse generation in Punjab has dropped to 3950 MW. As four out of 15 thermal power units are down in Punjab, only 3327 MW of thermal power is being generated against the capacity of 5880 MW.
Having failed at meeting the power demand, the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) has resorted to unannounced power cuts in Punjab.
Rural areas of the state are facing the worst power crisis and the power outages have become a daily affair. Urban areas are also feeling the pinch as the power cuts are frequent. Power is not available for five to six hours per day.
Amid power cuts, the AAP-led Punjab government is facing heavy criticism from the opposition and citizens. On Monday, Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu protested outside a Rajpura thermal power plant. While a farmer union led by Joginder Singh Ugrahan protested in Mansa.
Punjab Leader of Opposition Partap Singh Bajwa has urged the Centre to bail out Punjab as the state nears a blackout. "If the Government of India does not bail us out there would be a complete blackout in the Punjab in coming days. It is a very serious situation. Bhagwant Mann is touring Delhi to see the swimming pools while his own state is swoting and is in a worst electricity crisis" said Bajwa.
Citizens are now ridiculing the government over CM Bhagwant Mann's recent 300 free units of electricity per month promise.
"The government is fooling people by promising free Power units. When there is already a shortage and you are not able to meet the power demand, you are just fooling the people" said Avnish Kumar, an entrepreneur based in Zirakpur, Mohali. Kumar runs a small carpentry workshop. His staff comprising 8 to 10 labourers have to sit idle whenever there is a power cut.
"My Children are appearing in board examinations and we are facing power cuts for up to nine hours. Sadly, the cuts are not announced. The government should make prior announcements about the power cuts. When there is no power then it is automatically free" said Sudesh Saini a resident of Zirakpur based society.
President of the housing society 'Shubh homes' Jagjit Singh said that the shortage of power is also resulting in the erratic portable water supply. The Department of Water Supply and Sanitation is not able to lift the water. "People do not want free Power but they want power when you are not able to maintain a regular supply. You are fooling the people. Stop this Please," he added.
However, the Punjab government maintained that there is no power shortage in the state. When questioned, Punjab Power Minister Harbhajan Singh denied there was a shortage of power. "We do not have any shortage of coal. We have signed a fresh agreement with Coal India which will save revenues worth Rs 150 crores. The PSPCL resorts to power cuts when there is a transmission failure and requires repair," said Singh. He added that the state is ready to meet any power demand.
Why is Punjab facing a power crisis?
Apart from the coal shortage, empty coffers, faulty transmission lines and poor infrastructure are behind the power crisis in Punjab. The PSPCL's backbone has been broken by the state's heavy power subsidy bill and non-payment of electricity bills by various Punjab government departments.
The annual revenue of PSPCL is estimated to be around Rs 34,000 crores from which Rs 1,400 crore goes as loan payment. Punjab's subsidy bill currently stands at around Rs 13,000 crore. This will jump to Rs 19,000 crore in July when the state provides 300 free units per month to domestic consumers.
The power supplier has raised loans worth Rs 17,500 crore to buy power from the central grid besides other sources in the past. The opposition says PCPCL has no money to buy the coal which is resulting in a shortage.
(Inputs from Manjeet Sehgal)
Also read: Power outage: Long power cuts, load shedding reported in parts of Mumbai
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