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Home News Power Sector News Farmers protests - 1 dead - Centre gives 3 months extension for PSEB

Farmers protests - 1 dead - Centre gives 3 months extension for PSEB

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farmers protestIn view of the violent protests that rocked the union territory of Chandigarh , Ministry of Power in a fax message to Punjab Government has stated that in pursuance to section 172 of Electricity Act 2003, it has been decided by the central Government to agree for the continuation of PSEB as a state transmission utility and licensee for a further period of three months i.e. up to December 15 to complete the unbundling process.

It was supposed to be a peaceful protest against the unbundling of Punjab State Electricity Board. However, the demonstration by supporters of Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan), PSEB workers’ union and Joint Farmers’ Organization in the city went out of control leading to one farmer dying along with 60 people getting injured. More than 25,000 farmers led by Bharatiya Kisan Union activists had poured onto the roads of Punjab’s capital, Chandigarh. By evening, the protests had turned violent leading to the death of a farmer during a police lathi charge and injury to many including some policemen. In retaliation, farmers set fire to dozens of vehicles and damaged other property. The police contingent of less than 4,000 including some commandos from Punjab and Haryana were taken aback and did not appear prepared to take on such a strong crowd of farmers.

The farmers had also held a protest march on Monday in front of PSERC against the recommendation on the increase in power rates for the agriculture sector. The farmers aver that if Punjab goes ahead with its move to split PSEB into different companies as per Electricity Act, 2003, it may stop free power supply to the farm sector.

The Centre has given September 15 to the state government as the deadline for unbundling. Faced with the threat of “rail and road roko” on September 16 in Punjab by the strong unions of state farmers, the state government requested centre for extending the proposed unbundling.

The controversy surrounding the unbundling PSEB into three/several companies had been going in for close to eight years now. On 08-09-2009, thousands of Punjab Electricity Employees along with their families, participated in a massive rally at the sprawling Circus Ground here organised jointly by Technical Service Union and PSEB Employees Federation for annulling the Electricity Act, 2003, and against privatisation of the electricity board.

The Centre’s decision to extend the deadline for unbundling in view of ground reality in Punjab and Chandigarh has helped avoid a constitutional crisis between Centre and state which was in no mood to meet the September 15 deadline.

Former chairman of PSEB, YS Ratra told FE that “the recommendations of the Electricity Act 2003 should be implemented in letter and spirit as these would encourage competition among the various departments of the Board. I personally feel that such a move will improve the functioning of the electricity department”.

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