Sharmili Mallick

Bhubaneswar: With a view to ensure people stay connected with their family members, relatives and government machinery while staying at home amid the nation-wide lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19, Odisha Government on Wednesday requested Union Telecom secretary Anshu Prakash to direct the Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) in the State to not disconnect incoming facilities for at least a period of three months.

In a letter to the Union Telecom secretary, State’s Chief Secretary Asit Tripathy stated that in view of the nation-wide lockdown, all the commercial establishments, except few grocery shops, milk booths and medicine shops etc are restricted from opening.

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“Consequently, people are facing difficulty to recharge their mobile phones, especially those dependent on the recharge vouchers. Such non-recharge, on account of lockdown, may cause a large number of mobile numbers to be disconnected,” wrote the Chief Secretary to the Union Telecom secretary.

“This may not only result in many people unable to contact their family members, relatives and well-wishers in such a crucial phase but also many become an impediment for government to communicate with them for delivering essential,” added Tripathy.

“Therefore, it is requested to consider giving directions to all the Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) to not disconnect at least the incoming facility to the defaulting customers for a period of three months to help maintain communication in this time of COVID-19 pandemic,” appealed Tripathy.

Similarly in another letter through the Union Power Secretary Sanjeev Nandan Sahai, Chief Secretary Asit Tripathy wrote suggesting measures to ease the immediate burden of the power sector, so the state government can provide substantial relief on electricity tariff to public and industry bodies in the State.

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"This extraordinary situation demands extraordinary approach in all fronts including the power sector, being the vital enabler for all other essential services. There are lots of demands in the state from the public as well as Industry bodies to grant relief in electricity tariffs for their survival,” stated Tripathy highlighting the COVID-19 situation across the country.

The letter listed out certain measures that can be taken to ease out the immediate burden on the sector which will lead to substantial relief on electricity bills of the consumers.

Tripathy said that the coal price can be reduced for this period linked to the recovery of the operation cost only, deferring all capital expenses such as depreciation (loan repayment), interest payments and Return on Equity (RoE).

He further suggested that capacity charges, fixed charges can be reduced by 50 per cent which can be worked out by deferment of their capital cost viz depreciation, the interest cost, and RoE. In addition, Tripathy said the inter-state transmission charges can be reduced by 50 per cent for the year 2020-21 or for next six months.

"Power Finance Corporation (PFC), Rural Electrification Corporation Limited and other Financial Institutions should provide loans to the Power sector at a concessional rate. We urge the Central Government to extend a financial package to the power sector reeling under such an unforeseen disaster for the refit of the poor consumers and continuity of essential services," the letter added.