Navjot Singh Sidhu missing, CM holds meet; wants curbs on power theft
In the absence of state power minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, who was given the portfolio in the cabinet reshuffle of June 7, chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh reviewed the working of Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) on Wednesday.
Sidhu has not taken charge of the ministry and has been incommunicado since.
In the review meeting, power theft, coal supply position, financial health and release of pending subsidy were discussed.
The CM also directed officials to take stern action to check power theft that is rampant in border areas along Pakistan and Haryana.
He also asked the chief secretary to tie-up with the DGP to ensure adequate police protection to PSPCL staff taking action against power theft. PSPCL chairman-cum-managing director BS Sran demanded release of pending subsidy for free power to different consumer sections, particularly agriculture tubewells, to the tune of Rs 3,000 crore. The CM ordered immediate release of Rs 200 crore and ordered officials to clear the backlog soon.
Even as Sidhu could not be reached, his critical take on the CM’s functioning has been a talking point in the corridors of power.
On the eve of Parliament polls, Sidhu sparked a row, by his ‘friendly-match’ jibe at Amarinder, hinting at an alleged ‘secret political deal’ with the Badal family by not acting against them on the 2015 sacrilege and firing incidents during the Akali-BJP rule.
Upset over Sidhu’s remarks, the CM announced that the party performed poorly in Parliamentary polls because Sidhu failed to deliver as local bodies minister. He also announced that non-performers will lose portfolios.
In the reshuffle, Sidhu was divested of the local bodies and the culture and tourism departments, but a month on, Sidhu has not taken charge of the power ministry. The Congress has maintained that there was no illwill against Sidhu.
Wednesday’s meeting gave a clear signal that work goes on even if the incumbent minister is throwing tantrums.
The CM was also informed of the coal supply position. Under this, 18 days coal supply is available for Lehra Mohabbat thermal plant; Ropar (29 days); Goindwal (21); Rajpura (18) and Talwandi Sabo (13).
Other issues discussed were expediting work on Shahpur Kandi project as alternative power source, resulting in annual financial benefits of ₹250300 crore. The CM was informed that power demand went up 17.8% in June and on date is 33% more than the corresponding period last year.
There was 37% increase in consumption by agriculture sector. The maximum demand has touched 13,600-odd MW as compared to last year’s demand of 12,600 MW.