Ramakanta Biswas

The Odisha government’s decision to spend nearly Rs 2,000 crore to boost the power infrastructure and address the low voltage problem under the Odisha Distribution System Strengthening Project (ODSSP) has invited sharp criticism from the Opposition.

Opposition parities like the BJP and Congress expressed doubts over the transparency in the installation of 99 33/11 KV PSS and 64 independent 33 KV lines of 812.05 KMs length with a total estimated cost of Rs 1796.73 crore and five transmission projects (four Grid Sub-stations and associated lines and one 132 KV line) with an outlay of Rs 259.43 crore. The two projects received the approval in the State Cabinet meeting held under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Friday. 

Earlier in 2017-18, the State government had approved Rs 3,843 crore for installation of 473 33/11 KV primary sub-stations and its associated lines under the Odisha Distribution System Strengthening Project to ensure supply of reliable and quality power to consumers. 

However, the CAG report on ‘Public sector undertakings for the year ended March 2019’ found major lapses in the implementation of the project. The audit observed that physical achievement in the project was only 36 per cent (170 out of 473 sub-stations)against the financial achievement of 81 per cent (Rs 3130.08 crore utilised out of Rs 3843 crore).

The Odisha Electricity Consumers' Association demanded review of the project sanctioned earlier before infusing more funds and a thorough investigation into the matter.

Ramesh Satpathy, president of Odisha Electricity Consumers' Association said, “Despite our repeated demands, OERC (Odisha Electricity Regulatory Commission) maintained silence and did not conduct a probe on the findings of the CAG report. The government must conduct inquiry before further pumping funds into the projects and take stringent action against those responsible and attach their property.”  

According to sources, a steering committee was supposed to be constituted in 2017-18 to monitor spending of money in the projects under the Odisha Distribution System Strengthening Project. The panel was supposed to be headed by the Power (department) Secretary with members from Finance, Planning and Convergence, OEIC and members of all DISCOMs. However, the panel did not see the light of the day yet.

“Why has the BJD government failed to streamline the energy sector despite being in office for a long time? Making tall announcements to streamline the sector ahead of the Panchayat elections has exposed the failure of the government,” alleged BJP general secretary Lekhashree Samantasinghar.    

Nishikant Mishra, spokesperson of Congress party, said, “The State government has admitted that Power sector has not made any noteworthy progress in its 21 years of rule. The government does not have the data regarding the spending of funds of around Rs 4,000 crore. The State government made the announcement yesterday with eye on Panchayat polls.”