The Punjab government on Thursday reduced timings of government offices and ordered cut down on power supply to high energy-consuming industries as the electricity demand in the state soared to over 14,000 MW a day.
On Wednesday, the power demand peaked to 14,142 MW against the supply of 12,842 MW, leaving a gap of 1,300 MW, an official of the state-owned power utility PSPCL had said.
So far, there is no decision on banning the use of air conditioners (ACs) in government offices, which will function from 8 am to 2 pm from Friday till further orders, an official spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said Chief Minister Amarinder Singh appealed to all government offices to make judicious use of electricity, adding that the situation is dire as the peak demand in the state has touched a whopping 14,500 MW.
The CM said farmers are losing precious paddy transplantation time due to power breakdowns and added that the agriculture sector needed to be prioritised for uninterrupted power supply.
Amid rising demand and prolonged dry spell, Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) also appealed to government and public sector offices in the state to use electricity judiciously and switch off ACs up to July 3.
The power utility in an appeal said, "Due to prolonged dry spells, paddy transplantation and power shortage owing to failure of one unit of the Talwandi Sabo thermal power plant, the PSPCL is facing problems in meeting the power demand of more than 14,500 plus MW."
According to a statement here, the PSPCL has also decided to impose power regulatory measures on industrial consumers by imposing two-day weekly offs on the industry, including rolling mills, arc and induction furnaces with immediate effect. Erratic power supply in the past a few days have forced consumers to hold protests and block roads at many places, including Mohali, Kharar and Batala.
"It is really shocking that on one hand the government is claiming surplus power and on the other, the weekly offs and unscheduled power cuts are being imposed on industries," said Badish Jindal, president of the Federation of Punjab Small Industries Associations.
Farmers have slammed the state government for not providing the promised eight-hour supply for paddy transplantation.
"We are getting four to six hours of supply against the promise of eight hours. Farmers have been forced to use generators to run motors that will add to their cost," said Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta-Ugrahan) general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan.
Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal too criticised the state government for unscheduled power cuts.
"Power cuts by @capt_amarinder govt are deliberate excuse for denying free power to farmers at peak of paddy plantation. Era of long #PowerCuts is back though even rivals forced to admit we left Pb power surplus. @AamAadmiParty colluding with Capt. SAD won't remain mute witness," said Badal in a tweet.
Badal said his party workers will hold statewide protests on Friday to demand the restoration of power supply to both agriculture and domestic sectors.
Punjab BJP general secretary Jeevan Gupta said his party will hold statewide protests on Friday outside offices of the PSPCL against the erratic power supply.
"It is the failure of the Congress government in not ensuring adequate power supply to consumers who are facing problems due to power cuts," said Gupta.
Aam Aadmi Party MLA Gurmeet Singh Meet Hayer accused the CM of "abandoning" people of the state, amid prolonged power cuts and said his party will "gherao" the CM's farmhouse at Siswan in Mohali on July 3.
Meanwhile, the Punjab CM urged agitating employees of the power department to call off their stir.
The CM also constituted a three-member committee to resolve grievances of the agitating employees. He assured the employees that all their genuine demands will be considered.