Mrunal Manmay Dash

The Odisha Electricity Consumers Association (OECA) has vehemently opposed the proposal by Tata Power to invest Rs 2000 Crore in Odisha for the development of electrical infrastructure in the State.

The OECA suspects that all the money spent by Tata Power for infrastructure development will ultimately be borne by the electricity consumers by means of tariff hike in the future.

When we speak about the CAPEX (Capital Investment Plan), it denotes the money the private power distribution company seeks to spend in order to modernise and develop electrical infrastructure in the State.

Out of the Rs 2000 Crore, Tata Power requested to spend Rs 910.37 crore in areas under the jurisdiction of CESU, Rs 275 Crore in NESCO jurisdiction, Rs 462.42 Crore under WESCO and Rs 408.47 Crore under SOUTHCO jurisdiction after it took over all those DISCOMS this year. All these money is slated to be spent by 2022.

As per Tata Power’s application, it plans to spend the money on sub-stations, modern electrical equipments and IT sector among other things.

However, a report by the Standing Committee of the Odisha Assembly revealed that the government has already spent Rs 37,000 Crore for the same purpose under the Biju Gramin Jyoti Yojana, Biju Urban Electrification Yojana, Rajiv Gandhi Rural Electrification and other schemes.

Ramesh Satapathy, President of OECA said, “The reason they have cited to spend all these money is that all the works done by the State government recently on the electrical infrastructure is substandard.”

“Our stand from the beginning was to never put extra burden of electricity tariff on the consumers. But this expenditure by Tata Power will definitely inflate an already high electricity tariff in the State,” stated Satapathy.

It is pertinent to mention here that the reason Tata Power has mentioned in the application to spend the money is to replace broken electric poles, weakened earthing system, weak distribution sub-station, dilapidated condition of primary sub-stations, temporary renovation work and lack of safety equipments.

The Opposition parties in Odisha have now started to demand the details of expenses the State government had made in the recent past for modernisation of electricity infrastructure in the State.

Satyabrata Panda, BJP Spokesperson, asked, “Is not the government responsible for wasting so much of tax payer’s money? They seem to sit content, only changing the distribution companies when complaints come in bulk.”

“We will start an uprising against this move by the government if needed,” warned Panda.

Similarly, Sudarshan Das, Congress spokesperson, alleged that the situation has arisen only because of the incompetence of the bureaucrats in the energy department.

When asked, Odisha Energy Minister, Captain Dibyashankar Mishra carefully evaded questions on the allegations of substandard electrical works. “The decision to allow DISCOMs to spend money completely lies with the OERC. The expenses are directly proportionate to the electricity tariffs levied on the consumers, so the OERC will take the appropriate decision,” said Mishra.