Bathinda plant closure: Employees protest, seek white paper from govt

The closure of the plants will affect around 3,000 employees.

punjab Updated: Dec 22, 2017 16:08 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Bathinda
Bathinda,thermal power plant,Guru Nanak Dev Thermal Plant
Guru Nanak Dev Power Plant employees protest at the Kanahiya Chowk in Bathinda on Thursday. Protests were held in Rupnagar as well.(Sanjeev Kumar/HT)

A day after the Punjab Cabinet decided to shut down its 460-MW Guru Nanak Dev Thermal Plant (GNDPT) in Bathinda and two units of the 1,260 MW Guru Gobind Singh Super Thermal Plant at Ropar with effect from January 1, 2018, employees of the GNDPT held a protest march on Thursday.

Agitated employees also burnt the effigy of Punjab finance minister and Bathinda (urban) MLA Manpreet Singh Badal.

The closure of the plants will affect around 3,000 employees. During campaigning for assembly polls, Manpreet had promised employees that the plant would work to full capacity, if the Congress formed the government.

On Friday, employees plan to hold a motorcycle rally till the office of Manpreet.

In Rupnagar, employees raised slogans against the state government and the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited. Rupnagar MLA Amarjit Singh Sandoa also addressed the protesters.

General secretary of GNDTP employees coordination committee Gursewak Singh said, “We will step up the agitation.” GNDTP chief engineer VK Garg said he was yet to receive the communication on plant closure.

A spokesperson of Punjab State Electricity Board Engineers’ Association said, “Members will wear black badges on January 1.”

The association has asked the state government to issue a white paper on the decision. “Policy makers did not heed the association’s warning on the consequences of lopsided generation policies,” the association said.

State at mercy of private players

Calling the decision anti-people and anti-employment, AAP state unit president Bhagwant Mann and co-president Aman Arora said in a joint statement, “The government has become bankrupt in its thinking in financial matters and has left the state to the mercy of private thermal lobby.” The leaders announced support for protesting employees .

The SAD has accused the Congress of reneging on its pre-election promise not to shut down the Bathinda thermal plant. Former minister Bikram Majithia said, “All the government needs to do is install new machinery,” he said.

Anandpur Sahib MP Prem Singh Chandumajra said, “Livelihood will be hit.” In Patiala, former deputy speaker Bir Devinder Singh said, “This conspiracy has a history of 20 years in the Badal family led by Parkash Singh Badal and now Captain Amarinder Singh. They and their blue-eyed bureaucrats, who served in the power sector over the past two years, are involved,” he said. “The regulator will be powerless in regulating tariff due to the illogical, power purchase agreements that the previous Badal dispensation has signed,” he claimed.

Plants had become unviable: Rana Gurjit

State power and irrigation minister Rana Gurjit Singh has defended the decision to close the plants saying that they had become unviable. “The operational cost of these thermal plants was higher than their production cost, so they were unviable. We are already purchasing power on cheaper rates from other state and will continue to do so,” he said on the sidelines of a function in Ludhiana on Thursday.

“There will be no retrenchment. We will accommodate employees of these thermal plants in Punjab State power Corporation Limited (PSPCL).”

In Chamkaur Sahib, state finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal said, “The plants were causing Rs 1,300 crore loss per month.”

First Published: Dec 22, 2017 16:08 IST