Dark Days Ahead for Punjab as it Waits for Goods Trains to Chug in Amid a Looming Power Crisis
File Photo of Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh. (Image: PTI)
The power crisis faced by Punjab in view of the ‘Rail Roko’ agitation by farmers against central government’s farm bills has landed the state in a peculiar situation. Staring at a severe power shortage parleys to mitigate the crisis are on but to no avail so far. The Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) officials had formally declared that the state power generation plants were left with coal only for a few more days. The crisis is getting deeper with each passing day. The refusal of the Centre to ply goods trains till all tracks are vacated by protesting farmers has worsened the situation.
Sources say heavy industry could be the first sector to be affected as it could see a comeback of peak hour restrictions. The domestic sector is likely to be touched later. With the industry already reeling under huge losses due to the lockdown, this can be bad news.
Farmer unions, on the other hand, claim that they had vacated tracks for the goods trains to ply but the same was stopped under conspiracy to derail their opposition to the farm bills. They have termed the Centre’s refusal to ply goods trains as arm twisting. The state government is holding a series of meetings to pacify them to vacate rail tracks. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had also appealed to them towards the same during special Vidhan Sabha session convened to reject farm ordinances. He had said that the PSPCL is cash-strapped to buy power from outside state as it costs an additional Rs 12.25 per unit drawn from Northern Grid as well as unscheduled interchange charge of Rs 8.73. The payment has to be made in advance on a daily basis.
While the decreased power supply has already taken a hit, this is not all as the crisis will have repercussions for the next season as well. The PSPCL works on a barter system with other states such as southern states, Himachal and Jammu, and it trades power supply saved back during winters when consumption is less and gets it in return during the peak paddy season when there is higher demand to maintain 24 hour power supply as power demand climbs to 13500 MW. Last year between October and March, PSPCL could save 1300 MW but this year it is forced to buy power from central pool on payment. Punjab bought 1500 MW of power from central pool on Monday.
This year Punjab is not able to lend any power bank and is instead buying power from Centre on instant payment. Punjab will have to procure an estimated 3200 MU (Mega Units) from the pool to meet next season’s demand. The present crisis will thus have repercussion next year and farmers will not get supply for paddy sowing season.
This is due to less monsoon rains water level in Bhakra Dam is less.
The PSPCL is heavily depending on its hydro power plants and thus using up the water outflow in the dam. This could also lead to decreased water supply for irrigation for the next sowing season.