Punjab to fill coffers at the cost of thermal plants
By Harpreet Bajwa | Published: 07th January 2018 09:24 AM |
CHANDIGARH: After the closure of Guru Nanak Dev Thermal Plant in Bathinda and two units of Guru Gobind Singh Super Thermal Plant in Ropar on January 1, cash-strapped Punjab government is now planning to sell off the former’s 2,200-acre land and reuse the latter’s area to setup a gas-based power plant. The state government had earlier claimed of possessing excess power and wish to sell some of it to neighbouring Pakistan.
The closure move has set the ball rolling for a long-drawn confrontation between the government and the plants’ employees who have started protests and dharnas. “The employees of these thermal plants, Punjab State Power Corporation Limited and other outfits have decided to siege Power Minister Rana Gurjit Singh’s house in Kapurthala on January 18, and gherao Moti Mahal the ancestral house of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh in Patiala on February 7. They will also intercept the ministers wherever they go in the state. Punjab State Electricity Board Employees Joint Forum will hold a meeting on January 22 to decide further course of action,” said Gursevak Singh, president of Guru Nanak Dev Thermal Plant Employees Union.
Ropar Thermal Sangharsh Committee member Bhag Chand Sharma said the protests would continue till the government reversed its decision. According to sources, the government plans to sell 1,500 acres of the Bathinda plant and set up a 1,000-MW solar power plant in the remaining land. In Ropar, two units’ area might be reused to set up a gas power plant. However, no decision has been taken by the cabinet sub committee appointed for this purpose. The government had closed the plants after the sub committee’s recommendation.
It is learnt that a few private players are interested in taking over the Bathinda plant, re-modify it and sell power to the government. At present, the state has six thermal plants — three each in government and private sector. The plants produce 6,720 MW of power, of which the private plants alone contribute 4,080 MW.
“The government thermal plants are made operational for a few days in a year only when there is some fault in private thermal plants due to the nexus at higher levels,” said Gursevak. He added that the government pays `3,000 crore to these three plants per annum even if it doesn’t buys power from them.