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Power strike to protest break-up

Ranchi, June 22: State government and power employees today headed for a showdown over unbundling the state electricity board while JSEB appeared to be getting ready to buy its way out of the crisis.

Friday once again saw the board overdrawing power from the central grid during peak hours. While JSEB’s own generation hovered precariously around 85MW, it drew over 320MW of power, against its permissible limit of 240MW. The board, consequently, will be paying a penalty, which amounts to three times the normal rate.

JSEB spokesman S.B. Sharma said the exact amount of the penalty would be known once the board receives the bill. But he defended the exercise and said: “We have overdrawn power as we do not want our consumers to suffer.”

The explanation failed to cut ice with the board’s own personnel. The board’s financial health will worsen, they feared, if it continued to buy power and pay penalty.

Monthly expenses of the board are currently Rs 170crore a month whereas it collects only Rs 90crore as revenue. With no generation possible at Tenughat in the near future, the board will continue to depend on the central sector power stations to meet its requirement, pushing it into a trap, they feared.

“The board on one hand is overdrawing power and paying penalty while on the other it is loath to spend anything to upgrade units at Patratu thermal power station,” said M.P. Yadav, general secretary of Jharkhand Power Engineers’ Service Association.

Meanwhile, power employees decided to observe a day’s token strike on June 29 to protest the decision to finally dismantle the board into three separate companies by the end of this month. The state was expected to complete the exercise in 2004 itself and since then has pleaded and secured as many as 12 extensions.

Although the board today tried to buy peace by convening a meeting on June 27, employees described the gesture as “too little and too late”. They threatened a wild-cat strike if the government pressed ahead with the unbundling and “privatisation: without conceding their demands first.

However, the employees, are seeking guarantees that they will continue to be deemed government servants. They also want guarantees that personal files of all employees would be transferred from Patna, that the state government would take over the liability of paying PF and pension.

Convenor of the coordination committee M.P. Yadav said the committee had written to the government five months ago with the list of demands, but has received no reply.

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