In an exclusive interview to News18, Union Power Minister RK Singh has slammed the Punjab government for the current power crisis, adding that the state has failed to strengthen its transmission network. He said Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh has not even called him once to discuss the problem and look for a solution.
“It is an internal problem… this is what happens when the state government neglects strengthening of power sector and is hell bent on exploiting the power sector for political gains,” Singh said. He added that the Centre has surplus power but since Punjab is unable to draw from the central grid and resolve the snags in their power plant the problem is heightened. “The situation is we have surplus power… we can give as much power as they want… they just don’t have the capacity to draw it,” Singh pointed out.
When asked if the Punjab chief minister has spoken to him on the issue, the power minister said, “No, he has not spoken to me. In fact, when we heard of the crisis going on… power secretary rang up to the officers in Punjab and asked what is happening."
The power minister said though the central dispatch system has been asked to provide help to Punjab, caution must be taken that the country does not suffer because of one state. “We have given instructions to central dispatch system to help in any which way they can but we made it very clear that for one state we will not endanger the whole grid… the national grid is very important and if their capacity is only X then we will give them only X… because if you trip, the entire grid will trip,” Singh told News18.
RK Singh was elevated as the Union power minister in the cabinet expansion and reshuffle on Wednesday. Singh, who was MoS (Independent charge) power, said the country now has up to 21 hours of electricity supply. He said to aid states such as Punjab, the central government was willing to provide funds but state governments must come up with plans to cut losses of distribution companies.
“We have been given so much money to strengthen the transmission system… why didn’t they do it? And this is a problem where other states have also not planned it… catering to the demand… we have touched 200,000 megawatts demand …it is a record…but we have to be prepared… Rs 3 lakh crore given to strengthen distribution system and we have given liberty to states to draw up their own plan as per their own requirements.”
On distribution company making losses, the minister said the Centre has been investing money in discoms for decades. “Distribution company mismanages and goes into a loss and after 5-10 years, the Centre has to again step in and give money…so this time we have said (to) draw up a plan for loss reduction and then we’ll give money,” Singh said.
Punjab has witnessed unscheduled power cuts being imposed on domestic, urban, rural, agriculture and commercial consumers. For several days now, people protested at various places in Punjab against the erratic power supply. The industry too was forced to face the heat with largescale units closed till July 11.