Farmers stage protests in various areas, block a highway to demand power for their crops
Punjab continued to grapple with long hours of unscheduled power cuts on Friday, with tempers rising and the power-supply gap in parts of the state increasing to as much as 2050 MW.
According to Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) Engineers Association general secretary, Ajaypal Singh Atwal, the demand on Thursday had reached 9500 MW while the availability in the state was around 7450 MW. “Two units at Talwandi Sabo, each generating 660 MW of electricity, one unit of Ropar, with capacity of 210 MW, and one more unit of GVK Goindwal Sahib generating 270 MW were out of order. Hence, simply put, the state didn’t receive 1800 MW of power that it was supposed to from these thermal units alone. The months of June and July can be even worse, if the same weather conditions persist.”
By late Friday evening, officials claimed, one of the thermal units of GGSSTP, Ropar, generating 210 MW and another unit of Talwandi Sabo, generating 660 MW, were back in action, pulling down the overall power shortfall in the state to 930 MW.
The grim power situation in the state had on Thursday also prompted the Punjab State Power Corporation (PSPCL) to issue a verbal appeal to industrial units with load more than 2000 kilowatt (KW) to shut their units for 12 hours on Friday. PSPCL officials at Ludhiana claimed that some measure of relief will be visible if the indutrial units complied with their request.
A majority of industrial associations, however, on Friday claimed that they had not complied with the verbal information.
PSPCL spokesperson said that an appeal was also issued to arc induction furnace owners— mainly located in Ludhiana and Mandi Gobindgarh — on Friday morning to voluntarily observe a shutdown for 12 hours during the day. The spokesperson added that some furnance owners had complied with their request and a relief of about 600 MW was observed because of the same.
For Saturday again, the PSPCL has appealed to all industrial units across the state (excluding Ludhiana) to observe a 12 hour voluntary shutdown in the form of karsewa . This relief will be passed to the agriculture sector , spokesperson added.
Officials said that more relief was likely by May 1 with Punjab diverting the power that it was so far supplying to other states as part of a banking agreement, back into the state.
Meanwhile, the power crisis also triggered protests by launched by various farmer outfits near various grid stations of Punjab, as well as outside the state power minister’s house on Thursday-Friday, with a group also blocking the Abohar-Ganganagar National Highway briefly.
In Bhutal Kalan village of Lehragaga constituency of Sangrur, a group of protesting farmers entered the 66kv grid station on Thursday afternoon and detained the grid staff there. The farmers there, who stayed put till Friday noon, instructed the staff to not impose power cuts in the area, even if instructed to do so by higher authorities, as a condition for their release. The seige was lifted after PSPCL authorities assured teh protesters that the agricultural sector will get four hours of electricity every alternate day to run their tubewells.
“As per information received by us, some Kisan unions had taken control of the grid in Bhutal Kalan for a few hours. In addition to this, one of our lineman was also attacked in Ghogar village in Hoshairpur,” said Atwal.
In Abohar, farmers took their protests to the streets, blocking the Abohar-Ganganagar National Highway for a few hours to express their angst against the minimum or no electricity supply to the agricultural sector for vegetable and fruit farming .
In Amritsar, farmers staged a protest outside the house of state Power Minister, Harbhajan Singh. Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan , general secretary of BKU-Ugrahan said,” The farmers are staging protests at many places on their own as power to the agricultural sector is hardly being supplied. In domestic rural areas as well, power cuts of more than 10 hours are being imposed . ”
Amarjeet Singh, a vegetable farmer in Ferozepur said,”We are receiving very ittle power supply. Sometime we have to wait for days to get power supply for a few hours. We need electricity to farm our vegetables. But given the power situation, we are managing on our own.”
Gora Singh Bhainibagha, another farmer from Bhainibagha, said,” I grow capsicum and the crop is getting damaged for want of water. I have to rely on a generator to run my tubewell, otherwise all my hard work will be wasted.”
Farmers at Raikot in Ludhiana district said that they have planned to gherao the executive engineer’s office on Saturday to protest against the erratic supply . Mahinder Singh Kamalpura, district president BKU-Dakaunda, said, “Already we have suffered losses in our potato crop and have had less yield for our wheat crop . As of now there is mentha, maize , moongi , green fodder and vegetables in the fields, for which we need water. But as power is hardly being supplied to the agriculture sector, farmers either have to use generators or suffer losses due to their crops not getting much water.”