Right until the model code of conduct came into force at noon on Wednesday after the election dates for Punjab were announced, nearly 150 men from Lambi, the constituency of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, and 70 from Jalalabad, the constituency of deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal, joined the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited on contractual jobs.
A total of 500 such employees, most of them learnt to be from constituencies held by the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), were given appointment as helpers, through an outsourcing contract of the PSPCL with Punjab Ex-Servicemen Corporation (PESCO). CM Badal’s special principal secretary, KJS Cheema, is secretary of the employment-generation department of the state. The Punjab assembly recently passed a law to regularise jobs of staff hired on contract or through outsourcing in the past.
The PSPCL has made the appointments citing urgency to maintain grids, at a time when all three of its thermal power plants are shut and all grids are operating below the usual load because of lower demand of electricity. However, during paddy season in the summer, when demand of electricity reached a peak and grids faces outages, the PSPCL management had refused to oblige field engineers who were seeking contractual staff to help out.
PSPCL chief engineer (west zone) MS Brar, when asked about the hiring, directed HT towards the zone’s deputy chief engineer (protection and maintenance). “Yes, nearly 150 men have joined in the west zone of PSPCL comprising Faridkot, Moga, Mansa, Muktsar, Bathinda, Fazilka and Ferozepur,” said PK Singla, the deputy chief engineer. The staff have been hired as ‘regular team mates’ (RTM), also called helpers.
“No one was allowed to join after noon on Wednesday, when the poll code was imposed,” he said, adding that since most of the staff joined in the field at various grids, “a detailed report will be available only by tomorrow (Thursday)”.
Logic versus pressure
Sources said the PSPCL management buckled under pressure of the ruling party after residents of Lambi sought government jobs. As there is no technical knowledge needed for a the position, the PSPCL decided to hire people through PESCO. It was not possible to recruit for the corporation as such without advertising and following a laid-down process.
A top official of the PSPCL told HT on condition of anonymity that some of the directors on the corporation’s board opposed the recruitments. “They said there is no need of helpers in a lean period, but the chairman had made up his mind and got passed a resolution to hire 500 helpers through outsourcing,” the official said.
The chairman-cum-managing director (CMD), KD Chaudhri, could not be contacted for comments.