Shri Bhagwant Mann
Dear Mann saheb,
I have come across reports on the Centre asking Punjab power utilities to pay for transporting coal from the State’s coal mines in the eastern region via Adani Group’s port on the west coast (https://www.thestatesman.com/india/punjab-being-made-to-bear-high-expense-of-coal-to-benefit-adani-mann-1503154486.html).
This is indeed paradoxical, to say the least!
I had earlier written to you and your colleagues in other States on the Centre grossly mismanaging coal supplies more than once during the last couple of years and, instead of owning responsibility for it, “directing” the States to import coal to the extent of 10% of their total requirements. This gave an opportunity to Indian coal mine owners in Indonesia and other countries to exploit the situation and quote astronomical prices, imposing a heavy cost burden on electricity consumers and crippling the State power utilities’ finances. I had suggested at that time that the affected States should claim compensation for it from the Centre.
It is indeed paradoxical that the Centre should once again try to hide the fact of mismanagement on its part to ramp up railway movement of coal from coal mines in the eastern region to northern States like Punjab and shift the consequent additional cost burden to the recipient States. It is all the more paradoxical that the Centre should direct Punjab to lift coal from mines allotted to the State and transport it, not directly, but via a rail-cum-sea detour and ask the State to receive it at an Adani Group’s port on the west coast, thus imposing a heavy cost burden on the State and its consumers.
On the face of it, it appears that it is yet another ploy on the part of the Centre to benefit the Adani port, at the cost of the electricity consumers in Punjab, a bizarre situation that calls for an independent enquiry!
In all fairness, your State should demand compensation for it, on the basis of the cost differential between direct rail movement and the detour via the Adani port.
The Centre issuing such unilateral directions to State power utilities is an affront to the spirit of federalism, a matter that should, in my view, be taken up collectively by all like-minded States at the national level.
In this context, I wish to place before you another related thought, in relation to the enormous contribution being made by the farmers in Punjab and Haryana to the country’s food security. The Punjab farmers are forced to draw water from borewells to irrigate paddy fields that sustain national food security. It is for this reason that the Punjab government necessarily subsidises electricity supplied to the farmers. I feel that since the State is forced to bear a huge subsidy burden for this and since it is a statutory responsibility of the Centre and the States to maintain food security collectively, the Centre should be asked to share the subsidy burden in an equitable manner.
Perhaps, Punjab should contact its counterpart States and take up these issues together at the national level. These are crucial issues that need to be raised in the interest of upholding the spirit of federalism, which seems to have come under a serious threat these days.
E A S Sarma
Former Secretary to Government of India