Members of the UT Powermen Union protesting at the electricity department in Chandigarh earlier this week.(HT Photo)
Members of the UT Powermen Union protesting at the electricity department in Chandigarh earlier this week.(HT Photo)

HT Chandigarh Readers’ Take: When it comes to power play, switch to efficiency

For improved efficiency the Chandigarh administration can streamline the existing set-up; but if power has to be privatised, then current staff should stay and costs checked, say readers
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh | By HT Correspondent
UPDATED ON DEC 11, 2020 11:47 PM IST

Caution is key

Any service has to be privatised with a lot of caution. As far as efficiency of the service is concerned, privatisation is most ideal. However, if the right measures are not taken then the likelihood of exploitation, both of the staff as well as the consumers is always a possibility, because the only aim of private operators is making profits. Welfare of workers and society is always secondary, so all the terms and conditions while privatising a department have to be considered very carefully.

AK Sharma, Chandigarh

Don’t penalise good performance

The electricity department is doing well and its tariffs are much better than those of other states. Electricity loss is also less than 15%, according to the prescribed rules, so the government should not go in for privatisation as the department has made profits. If that happens, however, the public will have to pay more.

Avinash Goyal, Chandigarh

Ill-conceived idea

The very idea of privatising power seems to be a misplaced one and likely to fall flat in the long run. The already beleaguered power sector has, instead of mitigating the problems faced by the residents, added to them. Privatisation is unlikely to set right the already derailed system. The idea is ill-conceived as, first, employees of the electricity department would be jobless. Second, private players will always want to do things their own way. The department will do well to improve the system to provide better services to consumers than letting private players take over the electricity supply system.

Ramesh K Dhiman, Chandigarh

Things will improve

Sooner or later privatisation was bound to happen. This is a good step towards making the supply system more efficient. One can be assured of quality services and not the rudeness of government employees. The government role should be that of a regulatory body, and not an entity running schools, hospitals, industry or looking after power generation. It should ensure that services run efficiently, employees are paid good salaries and penalise those who violate rules and regulations.

Manoj Malik, Chandigarh

No learning from other states

The Union government has prematurely directed all UTs to privatise the electricity departments, as the Electricity Bill under which these directions were issued is yet to be presented to Parliament for approval. Probably the authorities have not learnt anything from the states where the electricity boards were unbundled according to the Electricity Act 2003. The Punjab corporations have no money to pay salaries/pensions. Besides, the consumers had to pay hefty rates for electricity. Privatising power will only benefit the big corporates as they will raise the tariff exorbitantly. The only one alternative to boost efficiency in the department is to fill up the sanctioned vacancies at every rank regularly and create the infrastructure the system lacks. Since electricity is an essential service for socio-economic development it cannot be left in private hands for them to make profits in a tiny city like Chandigarh.

SK Khosla, Chandigarh

Surrendering to entrepreneurs

The government seems to have completely surrendered to private entrepreneurs on professional merits. Its intent to privatise public services seems as if it is escaping its responsibilities. There is less of an effort to serve citizens and more to exploit them. The excellent example is toll tax imposition. If citizens have to pay money to private entrepreneurs for usage of roads and bridges on each visit, where is the justification in the government charging registration fee and road tax from vehicle owners? After filling its own coffers, the government leaves citizens at the mercy of private entrepreneurs to loot for similar services. I don’t travel by road often but I pay more than 10,000 every year as toll tax, after already having paid road tax to the government .

MPS Chadha, Mohali

Better in private hands

Yes, privatisation of power department is necessary for better performance and better service. People of Chandigarh will be more happy.

BP Singhal

Count the advantages

There is an urgent need to privatise the UT power department as this has numerous advantages. Many countries across the world have privatised their electricity distribution businesses to promote competition and efficiency in the power sector. Privatisation has positive effects on the sectoral output by attracting new investments into the value chain and gradually increasing operational efficiency. Industry stakeholders believe privatisation will benefit both distribution utilities and consumers. According to a study, India’s average aggregate technical and commercial loss is at 21.4%. With at least 10 states losing about a third of the power supplied to consumers in distribution losses, their overdue bills have not only hit power producers but also contributed to stress in the banking sector. So privatisation of the UT power department will definitely reduce all such types of distribution losses. But one very important aspect is the pricing of the electricity, which many consumers fear would go up after privatisation. The administration should ensure reasonable pricing of consumption per unit to the 2.3 lakh consumers in the city and also put in place an effective consumer grievance redressal mechanism.

Anil Kumar Yadav, Chandigarh

Loss of jobs unacceptable

Full privatisation of distribution and supply functions of the electrical wing of the engineering department is not in people’s interests as it is not only likely to cost more but people will face more inconveniences as private companies will only be answerable to the government. Moreover, the staff already working in the electrical wing might lose their jobs, which will lead to more unemployment. Moreover, the stay by the high court was granted after full consideration of the matter and keeping in view the interests of people as well as employees. The Chandigarh administration should now act accordingly and instead of filing a review application or going to Supreme Court, approach the Central government for reviewing its directions in this matter.

Subhash Chugh

Welcome move

The privatisation move is a welcome step as this will ensure efficiency in services. Irrespective of the sound financial health of the power department one knows that government employees normally cultivate a sab chalta hai (anything goes) attitude and the public suffers.Therefore, privatisation of the power department will not only ensure better and efficient services to public, but the government will also be relieved of shouldering the responsibilities of a key department and work more effectively on the administrative aspects.

SS Arora, Mohali

Expect more efficiency

If the power department has surplus revenues, why does one have to pay high electricity charges? Why has there been no relaxation in the electricity tariff during the Covid pandemic? Sometimes bills are not provided to the residents on time or missed. Often UT powermen are indifferent to consumers. Redressal of grievances is not done properly. Residents have to wait for long or run from pillar to post to get electricity related work done. Privatisation of power department is necessary for better efficiency but with reasonable electricity charges and educated, well-behaved and friendly staff who can listen to consumer complaints and settle disputes as soon as possible.

Abhilasha Gupta

Powermen’s voices must be heard

The UT powermen have opposed the proposal of the administration to privatise their department. They say the profit earning department should not be privatised and despite shortage of staff, the best services are being provided to the public. The powermen say they will be without jobs after privatisation and will not get retirement benefits. Their interests have to be protected and voices heard. The public should support them.

M Lal Garg

Consumers will have to pay more

The move to privatise the Chandigarh electricity department is unnecessary as this is a profit-making utility. The Central government is misleading the public by saying that electricity will be cheaper after privatisation and there will be no change in service conditions.The electricity distribution system of UT Chandigarh is considered a high revenue, creamy utility with negligible agricultural and rural area consumers. The UT also does not have any dedicated power generating stations, and as the capital of Punjab, it gets assured power supply from the Rupnagar thermal power stations located 40 km away and from Rajpura thermal power station, which is about 50 km from Chandigarh. If the city’s electricity branch is privatised, Bhakra Beas Management Board power supply will be reduced since an extra share cannot be given to the private party. This will have an adverse financial impact on the tariff for common consumers. The people to suffer the most will be the staff of the electricity department, whether from the UT cadre or the Punjab and Haryana discom staff. There may not be an immediate loss, but who will pay retirement and pension of the employees? Delhi Electric Supply Undertaking employees are struggling for this for more than one decade. Further, private discoms are only allowed to take a minimum profit of 16%, which will push the power tariff to almost 8 per unit for consumers.

Abhishek Kumar

Private parties only interested in profits

If privatisation of the UT power department is a good thing then why not privatise certain other departments which are causing losses to the government? Privatisation as a rule of any government department has never had positive results. The difference is that the main aim of private operators is to make excess profits to fill their pockets. The additional revenues earned by government departments from activities such as power distribution go to the exchequer. To outsource power is indicative of the government’s failure to manage its affairs efficiently. Efforts must be made to improve the department’s efficiency, make it more profitable and people friendly. The trust and faith of people in governance is like a small lamp in the dark forest. It may not make everything visible but it assures them that the next step is safe.

Amar Jeet Kumar, Mohali

Protests can’t alter state policies

Protests by vested interests must not alter state policies and hamper transformation.The superior judiciary – high courts and Supreme Court – are required to interpret laws and any breach of constitutional provisions. The government is the governing body of a state and it has no business to be in business except for policy framing, overseeing national finance, foreign affairs, defence and critical spheres like nuclear energy and global trade. Judicial activism must refrain from encroaching upon the realms of the Executive working under political masters having public mandate.The fact that the power department has surplus revenues cannot debar it from delivering better. Vote bank tactics of employees must not vitiate governance as discipline is not antithetical to democracy.The vast world is now becoming a compact unit with liberalisation, globalisation and privatisation.

Lalit Bharadwaj, Panchkula

No hiked tariffs please

Once there is 100% privatisation in the electricity sector, the government’s work will ease. Moreover, it will generate employment and increase the efficiency of power distribution system of the city. However, the government needs to ensure that private companies do their job properly and do not demand an unnecessary hike in electricity costs.

Priyam Aggarwal, Chandigarh

Offer services without profit and loss motive

The government should always think about the welfare of the public. It should provide services without a profit and loss motive. However, state and Central governments are going in for privatisation. The Chandigarh administration is also adopting the same policy of distribution and supply functions of electricity. This is injustice with the public. The power department has surplus revenues and private agencies will definitely charge more for electricity. The administration should improve the efficiency of services by amending new policies. Privatisation will hurt powermen’s interests.

Sumesh Kumar Badhwar, Mohali

Power reforms hanging fire

Power losses remain a major roadblock as losses in transmission and distribution (T&D) across India average around 30%, but in the tricity it is nearly 60%. That means that nearly half of the electricity being generated either never reaches an end-user or is used but never paid for. Distribution is the weakest link in the entire UT power sector value chain. Therefore, being the revenue generating link, it is threatening to derail the entire process. The issues that have created this scenario are: Outdated infrastructure, power theft , excessive unmetered use of electricity, poor maintenance and no upgrading of distribution system. The administration should focus on reducing electricity theft, which will go a long way in curbing losses. More tie lines between the regional grids to increase power transfer capacity will help ensure that the most efficient, lowest cost electricity generation is reaching the consumer. Chandigarh has numerous electrified villages where the people still live in darkness. Majority are not connected to the grid. They steal power from nearby distribution lines. Rooftop solar power, or, alternatively, microgrids powered by various combinations of small renewable installations and diesel generators are the only way these inhabitants will get reliable electricity which will thereby reduce the distribution losses. The Restructured Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Programme has been hanging fire for several years. It was aimed at bringing down T&D losses, and utilising excess/ balance electricity in the grid, to be given for public purposes.

Rajiv Boolchand Jain, Zirakpur

Putting technology to use

The government has failed to put to use the latest technology to stop pilferage and transmission power losses due to bureaucratic control and lack of willpower. Power loss can be controlled by laying underground transmission lines. Government employees carry out repair work by resorting to power cuts, which can be avoided. Private companies will compete and introduce new technology and digitalisation to make the system more efficient, sensitive and responsive and for them every unit matters. The power department is overstaffed, resulting in increase in overhead expanses. Capital intensive power production has already been privatised. The earliest power transmission and distribution at consumer’s door is privatised the better. But it has to be done with regulatory mechanism ensuring that they don’t increase the tariff without approval by the Central Electricity Regulatory Board and power is supplied uninterrupted. Ugly supply power wires hanging around poles in city beautiful will vanish.

SK Aggarwal (retd), Panchkula

Say yes to solar power

The administration should ensure that Chandigarh gets to rely largely on solar power and do everything to speed up installation of solar plants in households so that abundant solar energy can be tapped, and made available to the city consumers, liberally and at cheaper rates too. FOSWAC, an apex body,which acts as a mouthpiece to echo the voice of city residents,has righty opposed the efforts to privatise the power supply and in fact supported the powermen on this issue. The UT administration needs to feel the pulse of the people before taking such radical steps.

SC Luthra, Chandigarh

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