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Home News Power Sector News PSEB unbundled - 65000 Employees begin 48 hours strike

PSEB unbundled - 65000 Employees begin 48 hours strike

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Flag March in PatialaPunjab’s council of ministers on 15-04-2010 approved the unbundling of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) into two companies- Punjab State Power Corporation Ltd. (Powercom) to manage generation and distribution and Punjab State Transmission Corporation Ltd. (Transco) to manage transmission functions. Nearly 65,000 electricity  employees launched a two-day strike. PSEB Engineers Association (PSEBEA) supported unbudling of PSEB and has already announced that it is not joining the strike. Though the strike remained peaceful, close to 84.94% powermen did not report for work.

With the Punjab government announcing its decision to unbundle the Punjab State Electricity Board into two companies, the Centre has acceded to the state’s request for another three-month extension for completing the process of unbundling as per the provisions of the Indian Electricity Act 2003. This is the 14th extension granted to Punjab by the Centre. According to sources, the Centre has now granted Punjab time up to July 15, 2010, for caring out the process of unbundling of PSEB after its earlier deadline expired 15-04-2010.Transition of the highly indebted board would take place formally on Friday after the government issues a notification.
Punjab cabinet’s nod to the recast will lead to dissolution of the board after the two companies are registered with the Registrar of Companies, Government of India. Following this, the government will issue a notification of transfer scheme, which will give full ownership and management of companies to the state government. 

PSEB Assets - Rs. 30,000 crores , Losses- Rs. 10,000 crores

A consultant hired by the government has given provisional evaluation of PSEB’s assets as Rs 30,000 crore even as losses of the board are to the tune of Rs 10,000 crore. A final assessment of the board’s assets is underway and is likely to be completed in six months, following which the assets will be distributed between two companies mutually. In case of dispute, the final decision will rest with the government. However, the external liability of Rs 16,000 crore will be transferred to the successor companies.

Punjab chief secretary S.C. Aggarwal told reporters after the cabinet decision that the corporatization of the PSEB was taken in compliance with the requirements of the Central Electricity Act, 2003 to make it more efficient, accountable and responsive to consumer needs. “An exercise of minimum restructuring had been done to meet the requirements of the act with the formation of Transco with a strength of 3,500 employees and Powercom having around 65,000. Restructuring of PSEB would not involve privatization in any manner as there would be no private shares in these companies,” Aggarwal maintained.

Chief Secretary said that all subsidies including for the agriculture sector and SC/BC's would continue as such. The Chief Secretary further said that there would be no change in the service conditions of the employees as they would continue to get the existing benefits including; Pension, Gratuity, Leave Encashment, Dearness Allowance and Annual Increment etc., besides there would also be no change in the benefits to the retired employees of the PSEB. He also assured that power tariff would not be increased.

Strike peaceful - 85% support

There was tension in several parts of the state with heavy deployment of police and paramilitary personnel to ward off trouble from the agitating employees.The administration also prohibited people from gathering in groups and carrying weapons in various parts of the state, including in and around PSEB offices and sub-stations. However, contrary to the impression created by authorities, the affected stakeholders — PSEB employees and the farmers’ organisation— who were opposing the unbundling, did not indulge in any violence or disruption of power supply, and held peaceful protests outside PSEB offices. 

The strike has been called by various employee union of PSEB, including Employees Federation, Technical Services Union, Federation AITUC, Ministerial Services Union, Bijli Mazdoor Front, Workers Federation to pressurise the state government not to go ahead with the unbundling of PSEB. The leaders of the striking employees said that they would study the restructuring of the PSEB but the strike would continue. Protests against corporatization continued in Patiala,  where the PSEB headquarters is located, and elsewhere in Punjab.

Various employee unions of the PSEB had earlier announced that they would strongly oppose the Punjab government’s action to unbundle the board. They said there would be no certainty on how issues related to the EPF, promotion policy, retirement benefits, balance pay revision, funds for unfunded liabilities and other benefits would be handled by the new companies post-unbundling.

PSEBEA supports unbundling - leaders eyeing for top posts

Meanwhile, PSEB Engineers ssociation (PSEBEA) who were supporting the Government on the issue of power sector unbundling feel ditched by the government after service conditions for the posts of Managing Director and other directors of new companies were amended. The consultants had recommended the maximum age for the post of Director should be 58 years and for CEO and Executive Director 60 years. Now the government has raised the age bar by two years for directors also. PSEB Chairman H S Brar, Member Transmission S C Sabharwal and Member Generation G S Sarao will retire in two days. This is because of the government’s decision to consider only technocrats below 60 years of age as of today for the new posts. The PSEB Chairman and the two members are above 60.

According to sources, the age relaxation and other service conditions have been amended suitably mainly  to adjust the incumbents. Now even retired Chief Engineers who were earlier ineligible for posting as Directors has now started lobbying for these posts. Even junior Chief Engineers having political links are eyeing for the posts. It may be mentioned that nowhere in country is the upper age limit beyond 60 years for any services.

Chief Secretary, Aggarwal said that cabinet has decided to appoint Chairman cum Managing Director for each company from among the technocrats. He said that Powercom shall have six directors beside CMD. The Directors are for Generation, Distribution, Finance, Human Rights, Commercial and Administration. The Transcom shall have two full time directors of Technical and Finance and commercial beside CMD. He said that while CMD can be from outside, all directors would be selected from among the PSEB technocrats.

According to sources at least two posts of Director Technical has been pruned in the proposed new set up. These include Director Material management and Director Hydel generation, PSEB engineers are sad at this turn of events. The posts which are likely to be filled by bureaucrats have been upgraded to post of Directors.

Managing Committee formed

Annurag Agarwal, the former member of finance of  PSEB ( which was unbundled into two companies) Thursday late evening assumed the charge is among the six others who assumed charge  of management committee of the board to oversee board functioning during transition period.

Consequent upon its decision to unbundle PSEB and taking into consideration the need of an interim arrangement for making day-to-day operations of the Transferee companies namely Transco and Powercom constituted vide section 131 of the Electricity Act 2003, a managing committee has been formed with immediate effect.

Other members in the committee who have also assumed the charge were  Er.K.D.Chaudhry, former Member Distribution of PSEB, Er.G.S.Chabbra, Chief Engineer/O&M, Guru Hargobind Thermal Plant, Lehra Mohabat, Er.V.K.Gupta, Chief Engineer/SO&C  Gurbachan Singh Bachi, former Administrative Member of PSEB  and M.R Aggarwal, IAS, former Secretary, PSEB. The tenure of committee shall not be more than 6 weeks unless this period is extended by the State Government.

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