Venu Parsad takes charge as Punjab power corporation chief; Chaudhri steps down
Chaudhri, a blue-eyed officer in former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal’s regime, sent his resignation in the morning, and it was accepted by the government with immediate effect.
Sources said Chaudhri tried his best to win over the new regime, but power engineers and a section of IAS officers and politicians were against his continuation. With the government changing the selection criteria for the CMD and fixing the retirement age at 60, Chaudhri was left with no option but to resign. He is 65 and had been getting extension after extension after he turned 62.
His last extension had come just before the model code of conduct, when the Badal government, to keep Chaudhri at the helm of PSPCL, extended the retirement age of the CMD from 65 to 67 years, despite strong protests by power engineers. Chaudhri’s influence can be gauged from the fact that deputy CM Sukhbir Badal had extended his tenure in the cabinet without keeping the principal secretary, power, in loop. PSPCL has an annual budget of ₹20,000 crore.
Appointed CMD after PSEB bifurcation
Chaudhri was the first CMD of the PSPCL, after the erstwhile Punjab State Electricity Board was bifurcated in April 2010. He was the director, distribution, in the PSEB. Under his tenure, the PSPCL and Punjab became the first state to become power surplus. However, the power purchase agreement with private plants is setting the state back by ₹2,300 crore annually, which has drawn criticism from many quarters. Chaudhri’s relations with power engineers soured in the past two years and the association even moved the high court when he got an extension from 62 to 64 years.
Talking to MahaPunjab, Chaudhri termed his stint as the CMD as “excellent”. “I am satisfied with the achievements PSPCL made in the last one decade. Punjab became power surplus, and a lot of money has been invested into upgrading infrastructure. Not a single transformer in Punjab is overloaded, and credit for this goes to the support provided by the government, PSPCL management, power engineers and staff,” said Chaudhri, who had joined the power corporation as a sub-divisional officer in 1973.
“I do hope my successor will keep carrying on power sector reforms and provide hassle-free services to consumers,” he said. On unfinished projects, he said he wanted to sell electricity to Pakistan, which remained unfeasible as the decision rested with the Centre.
PSEB Engineers Association president Baldev Singh Sran, meanwhile, said although Chaudhri has resigned, their demand for probe against him is still standing. “There has been grave misuse of power, financial losses and undue favour to private companies under the tenure of Chaudhri and all this must be probed,” he said, adding the association has already written about it to the CM and power minster.