Himachal to Reclaim Shanan Power Project from Punjab
Himachal This Week
Infuriated over the apathy of Punjab State Electricity Board towards the maintenance of 110 MW heritage Shanan Hydro Power Project, the political leaders of Himachal have decided to fight to reclaim the project from Punjab government. The political leaders accused that Punjab has stopped taking interest in the maintenance of Shanan Hydro Power Project, as the 99-year lease agreement of the same is set to end in 2024. They accused that the project will be no less than scrap when it will be handed over to Himachal after nine years. BJP MLA from Jogindernagar, Gulab Singh Thakur has written a letter to Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal and Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh apprising them about the dilapidated condition of the project. Even veteran BJP leader and MP Kangra Shanta Kumar has urged to chief minister Virbhadra Singh to take a serious cognizance of the poor upkeeping of the project. BJP MP from Mandi Ramswaroop Sharma has decided to take up the issue before Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Pranab Mukherjee.
Notably, the project was commissioned in 1936 and was constructed under a 99-year lease deed executed between Raja Jogendra Sen of the then Mandi State and Col. B.C. Batty, a representative of the British government, in 1925. The project, commissioned on March 10, 1933, was the only project in Northern India, which supplied power to undivided Punjab and Delhi. During the reorganisation of States in November 1966, Shanan Power House was allotted to Punjab. The project is under the control of the Punjab State Electricity Board and the entire profit from it is going to Punjab. The Assembly has on several occasions passed resolutions urging the Centre to give the project to Himachal. The issue has been raised each time at the Northern Zonal Council meeting but without any results.
Project Management Earning Lakhs by Giving Building on Rents
Punjab is earning handsome income from Shanan Hydropower project even by giving building on rent to private operators. The Shanan Project management has given a building on rent to a private school. Notably, the building was constructed to open a middle school for the kids of its employees and wards of people affected from the project. But with the passage of time the school was closed and building was rented over to a private school runner. Besides this, a residential building has also been given on rent, where a private hospital is functioning. It is only known to higher officials that the land given on lease or building constructed on it could be given further on rent to private operators or not, but for a laymen it is a clear violation of lease rules.
From Editor-in-Chief’s Desk
The Shanan Project is not only a mere property but it is an institute and a saga erupted from the mountains of Himachal. It is an obvious question as to why Punjab is insulting the asset of Himachal. Pain is inflicted on whole of Himachal when Punjab shows apathetic attitude towards Shanan Hydro Power Project, which served it for about century. No doubt, Member of Parliament from Kangra Shanta Kumar has undertaken the responsibility to raise the worries of Shanan to the centre. But, it is also the test of state government to conserve the heritage power project. Many aspects of Shanan project also reveals our cultural heritage and progressive thinking that became witness of development of hill state before independence. Cooperating with the British government a century ago while sensing the need for electricity supply is not only a deed but, it reflects the worry for the future of its citizens. Many other milestones were also achieved through Shanan project and it brought expansion of rail network up to Jogindernagar too. The allocation of Shanan project to Punjab while reorganisation of states was a wound for Himachal. But now, the attitude of neighbouring state in project area is adding salt to already existing wounds. What is surprising that Punjab has confined its administrative responsibilities to generating profit in the project. In such a situation Himachal’s view will be not only to reclaim the project but to also shine its existence. Status quo as per the lease deed with the British government in 1925 should be ensured in the guidelines of its ownership transfer. Means an amount should be estimated for the conservation of building and machinery and complete restoration should be made before transfer of the project to Himachal.
* The issue will be raised in front of union government and a Sangarsh Samiti has also been constituted for the cause. We will not rest till we get back the project from Punjab.
-Ramswaroop Sharma, Member of Parliament, Mandi
Haulage Trolley Rapidly Turning to Scrap
Haulage way trolley, once the major attraction and vital part of 110 MW Shanan Hydropower Project, is in pathetic condition. Such are the condition of the ropeway system that it will be no more than scrap when it will be handed over to Himachal after ten years. Grass has grown in the track that is lying unused, as the trolley was closed 15 years back because of fault in machines. Punjab is earning crores of rupees from this project, but hardly any attention is paid on this vital link. The ropeway has enough potential to attract tourists and if the project is not freed from clutches of Punjab soon, it will be a scrap site. Higher officials of Shanan Project from Patiala used to visit Barot every year, but did not pay any attention towards this closed ropeway. Junior Engineer at Shanan Project in Barot Om Prakash said that budget was asked for repair and maintenance work many times, but it was never granted.
Col. Batty Constructed Haulage Way Trolley
The haulage way trolley, one of its kind in the country, was constructed by Col. B.C. Batty from 1925 to 1932 by importing the necessary material from Switzerland. There are four stations in the eight kilometers long track from Shanan to Barot. It starts from Shanan and goes up to a point known as 18-Number and onward to the second phase of the haulage rail line, which terminates at Winch Camp. From Winch Camp, a serpentine 3 km-long rail line was laid up to a place known as Head Gear. The fourth station is Kathyadu. The machines are faulty at Head Gear and Kathyadu for the past 15 years.
–With inputs from Ankush Sood, Barot