Power situation has turned grim in Punjab with thermal plants nearly running out of coal stock as movement of coal rakes in the state has remained suspended for about a month in view of the farmers' stir and authorities on Friday said imposing power cuts may be unavoidable.
Railways Minister Piyush Goyal had a few days ago sought the Punjab government's assurance on the safety of trains and their crew members to restore freight services, after Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had asked him to intervene to resume the same.
Goods train services had resumed in the state after farmer unions on October 21, announced exempting them from their weeks-old 'rail roko' agitation over the Centre's new farm laws. However, the Railways later decided to extend its suspension of goods train operations, saying protesting farmers are still blocking the tracks.
"The Centre is targeting Punjab by suspending the goods trains in the state because farmers and the government here have opposed their anti-farmer laws," Punjab Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said on Friday. He further said, "let the Government of India officials themselves go and check if the farmers are still squatting on rail tracks. Barring one track in Jandiala Guru, where too train can be diverted via Tarn Taran to reach Amritsar, other tracks are free. On Jalandhar-Pathankot section, in Bathinda and in Ferozepur, tracks are free".
Punjab State Power Corporation Limited chairman-cum-managing director A Venu Prasad on Friday said, out of five thermal plants, only one is running. Projecting the current power situation as 'grim', Prasad while interacting with journalists, said, "for last month, there has been no movement of coal rakes in the state and coal stock of Nabha Thermal Plant at Rajpura and Talwandi Sabo Power Limited in Mansa has completely exhausted".
"In three other power plants, stock available will last only for 2-3 days and for emergency purpose or critical events we have kept that. In view of the situation, we are purchasing 1,500 megawatts to 1,700 MW from power exchange, but it is unpredictable, sometimes we get, sometimes we don't and at what rates we are going to get we don't know. "Whenever we buy power from the exchange, we have to make an advance payment, nearly Rs 5-10 crore daily, for which we need a huge amount, Prasad said.
He said they have requested the State's Finance Department for release of Rs 200 crore immediately, but they too are facing financial constraints. "Therefore, as of today, the situation has assumed serious proportions. So, if current uncertainty continues, power board and power consumers may face difficulties," he said.
Prasad said for the farming sector and industry, as of now cuts were not being imposed, but for domestic categories, minor cuts have been imposed and in days ahead it will depend on how the situation unfolds. "Also, this year there was not enough rainfall during monsoon and as a result water level in reservoirs has gone down due to which hydel power generation has also come down… And if the coal crisis continues, some problems will be faced, he said.
Prasad, however, said luckily, power demand, especially during night-time has come down in view of change in weather condition and fall in temperatures. "But during daytime the demand is around 6,000 to 7,000 MW," he said.