The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Badal power slur on CM

Chandigarh, June 25: Parkash Singh Badal today alleged that corporate houses had pumped in money to ensure a Congress victory in last year’s Assembly polls and that Amarinder Singh was repaying them now by privatising the power sector.

“The Punjab government’s decision to privatise the power sector is financially disastrous and morally criminal. The decision was dictated by Amarinder’s desire to fulfil his commitments to some big business houses,” the Shiromani Akali Dal chief said.

At a Cabinet meeting yesterday, the chief minister announced the break-up of the Punjab State Electricity Board and imposition of tolls on the Ropar-Phagwara highway.

The government’s April assurance that power sector changes would be introduced only after extensive public debate and a consensus was reached was set aside for a Rs 5,000-crore World Bank loan application.

The decision follows recommendations by a committee on power reforms.

The panel sought the break-up of the power board into separate transmission, generation and distribution utilities and introduction of stringent anti-theft legislation.

“Some big business houses pumped in enormous amounts of money… to ensure a (poll) victory for Amarinder on a quid pro quo basis. It is repayment time for him. But the tragedy is that this is being done at the expense of the people… and the state electricity board…,” Badal said.

The Akali leader wondered why there was such a hue and cry about the power board’s fiscal health. “We (Badal’s government) kept the system functioning smoothly even while giving free power to the farm sector and Dalits. Now, with that facility abolished and punishing hikes in tariff having been made, why is the government finding it difficult to run this organisation' Let the chief minister explain what he expects the private houses to do over and above what the power board was doing'” he asked.

The Akali leader said Amarinder was playing havoc with the state’s economy and disregarding macro-economic fundamentals in order to further his personal and political interests.

Badal said power privatisation had failed in Delhi and Maharashtra. Even some advanced countries had reverted to a state-governed power regime. “Amarinder was aware of this,” the Akali leader added.

The former chief minister, who has been facing threats of arrest on corruption charges by his successor, wondered why Amarinder had disregarded the advice of power privatisation experts.

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