The cash-strapped Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) has a new worry. Its dispute-settlement mechanism may be “politicised” in the election season.
The state government is finalising the district-level dispute-settlement committees of two members (including a chairman) each. Sources in the PSPCL say the government wants to “adjust” 44 confidants on these panels before the polls. It’s a process already late by two years since 2014.
The deputy commissioners will choose these two members. Each committee will also have nominees from the PSPCL, a superintending engineer, an executive engineer, and a accounts department officer. In May, using powers under Section 108 of the Electricity Act 2003, the state government wrote to Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC) to pass an order to finalise the names of private candidates for the committees. “It’s infringement of our functioning,” said a senior official in the PSPCL. “A committee with a private individual as head may interfere in our day-to-day functioning at the field level, which the struggling corporation can ill afford.”
The government, however, says the committees will deliver justice to consumers and dispose of complaints in a fair and transparent manner. The erstwhile Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) formed these dispute-settlement committees as an internal mechanism for redressing consumer grievances in accordance with powers conferred under Electricity (Supply) Act, 1948, and accepted in the Electricity Act, 2003.
Burden on PSPCL
The chairmen and private members may not get monthly salaries but they will enjoy the official paraphernalia, staff, and vehicles, leading to additional cost burden on the cash-strapped PSPCL.
DCs can’t appoint chairman: PSERC
In a September 2015 order, the PSERC had opposed the role of deputy commissioners in appointing private individuals as chairmen on these committees, saying it was not consistent with the Electricity Act, 2003, and the PSERC (forum and ombudsman) Regulations, 2005.
The commission accepted that the chairman could nominate a private member and asked the director (industries) to appoint a member from the industry. The government directions of May, which the PSERC is going to approve any day, will go against its earlier order of keeping the DCs away from appointing chairmen and private members.
A chairman takes charge on his own
Balwinder Singh of Guru Har Sahai took charge as chairman of the local disputes settlement committee on his own last month. He had a meeting with the PSPCL officials, got them to prepare his office, and told them to sanction pending tube-well connections quickly. The PSPCL management denies any knowledge of it.