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Ramakanta Biswas

Bhubaneswar: The move to sell 51 per cent shares of the Central Electricity Supply Utility (CESU) by the Odisha Electricity Regulatory Commission (OERC) and the State Government has invited severe criticism from consumers as well as Opposition.

It is being alleged that the OERC is selling the CESU to Tata Power at a throwaway price and there is a huge kickback and PC (percentage commission) behind the move for privatisation. During an audit, it was found that the total assets of CESU stand at 4,461 crore as on March 31, 2017 while the Commission has set Rs 300 crore as reserve price for the bidding process.

According to reports, the OERC has selected Tata Power as the bidder to enter the power distribution section in the State. Through privatisation, the OERC has set a target to reduce CESU’s Aggregate Technical & Commercial (AT&C) losses from 32.57% as on March 31 2019 to 22.57% on March 31, 2023. Besides, the Commission has also set target to recover total pending bills of Rs 200 crore by 2025.

The electricity consumers’ association has raised question over sale of CESU and alleged that there are huge kickbacks behind the move.

“Setting the base price at Rs 300 crore is questionable. If I sell my assets of Rs 100 for just Rs 1, there must be some irregularities behind that. If the company is handed over to a private company, we will not get central funds,” said Ramesh Satpathy, president of electricity consumers’ association.

At present, there are 26,46,000 consumers under CESU in nine districts in the State. There is an arrear of Rs 1971 crore on consumers of which industrial establishments owe Rs 208 crore. The CESU has made an action plan to bail out of the situation and decided to disconnect the electricity connection of consumers if they fail to pay their pending bills by January 15, 2020.

Meanwhile, the Congress party has threatened to launch agitation against the move. “Various private companies swindled crores of rupees by entering the power distribution sector in the State. If the Naveen Patnaik led government is again trying to sell CESU to a private company, we will strongly oppose it,” said Congress MLA Sura Routray.

Echoing the same view, BJP’s Lekhashree Samantsinghar said, “There must be a bad intention of the State government behind selling the assets of CESU to a private company at a throwaway price without properly auditing the assets and liabilities of the electricity department. There is smell of kickbacks in the deal,” she alleged.

However, Energy Minister Dibyashankar Mishra refuted the allegations and said the decision was taken by OERC. “The deal is completely under OERC which is a quasi-judicial body. Whatever decision will be taken by OERC, it will be accepted,” said Mishra.

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