The Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) can heave a sigh of relief, as coal was loaded for the state's thermal plants from the Panem mines in Jharkhand on Saturday. It is expected to reach Punjab by train within five days.
Sources said the supply resumed after Panem -- a joint venture between the erstwhile Punjab State Electricity Board (now PSPCL) and Kolkata-based private firm Emta -- reached an agreement with the Rajmahal Pahar Bachao Samiti on Friday night after 21 days of agitation over non-fulfillment of promises made to the people displaced by the project in 2006.
It was alleged that the people neither got adequate compensation nor any proper infrastructure at the site where they have been rehabilitated. Even a promised 50-bed hospital, which was to start functioning from 2007, has not been completed yet.
Neither Panem nor the protesters were willing to budge, throwing work at the mine, which meets 60% of Punjab's coal requirements, into uncertainty.
The dwindling coal stock at thermal plants of Punjab was a cause of worry, as it would have affected power generation. At present, the Lehra Mohabbat plant has 10 days' stock and the Rupnagar plant has 11 days' stock.
One unit of the Lehra Mohabbat plant is under annual maintenance, while a 250MW unit has been shut down for the past three days due to a technical fault. Power shortage in the state is currently 86 lakh units.
Finally, the protesters and Panem have struck a compromise, and the mine, situated in Jharkhand's remote Pakur district, has started output. The mine has about 562 million tonnes of reserves and Panem has permission to use it for 44 years.