Oppn demands steps to lessen burden on consumers

Bhubaneswar: Rejecting Orissa Electricity Regulatory Commission`s (OERC) recommendation on hike in the power tariff from April 1, the state government on Monday said it would file a review petition even as the opposition Congress walked out of the assembly.

"We are also concerned over the proposed hike in the power tariff. The state government will soon file a review petition in OERC," energy minister Atanu S Nayak said in the assembly while replying a debate on the recent hike in the power tariff by OERC.

Stating that the state government was not in favour of hike in the power tariff, Nayak said the energy department during the hearing at OERC had strongly objected to such a proposal given by different distribution companies.

Opposition Congress, however, blamed the state government for the recent hike in the power tariff. "What prevented the state government to give subsidy in order to avoid a financial burden on the poor people," Congress Chief Whip Prasad Harichandan said.

"Even as the state government earns crores of rupees from power sector, it had done nothing to improve and upgrade system which resulted in high transmission and distribution losses," Harichandan said, adding that the reduction of T&D loss by one per cent would save above Rs 50 crore.

T&D loss in the state remained high at 38 per cent against the national average of 15 per cent, he pointed out accusing the state government of not taking any step to minimise the losses.

Though the 13th Finance Commission had already sanctioned Rs 1,000 for system improvement in the power sector, the state government did nothing, he alleged.

This apart, power theft was rampant in the state which could be one of the factors responsible for burden on the state owned Gridco (Grid Corporation of Orissa), the sole bulk power supplier in the state, he said.

Private distribution companies were hand-in-glove with industries who jointly steal power, Harichandan said.

Assuring the members that the state government would take stringent action against the power thieves, Nayak said that hike in power tariff was mostly due to rise in the price of coal and furnace oil used for generation of thermal power.

"Mahanadi Coalfileds Limited (MCL) had last year hiked coal price by 20 per cent and the public sector undertaking also took the same step this time. Therefore, there was rise in the cost of production of thermal power," Nayak said.

While Gridco was purchasing power from NTPC at the rate of Rs 1.62 per unit, it increased to Rs 3.22 per unit.

Gridco, on the other hand sale power to distribution companies at the rate of Rs 2.31 per unit thus making a loss, Nayak said.

Nayak also blamed the centre for not releasing funds to Orissa under RAPDRP even though the state experience maximum T &D loss. "We would have received Rs 1500 crore by now had the centre given funds to Orissa under RAPDRP," Nayal said.

The minister also said that the state government was taking steps to augment hydro-power generation besides entering into agreements with private companies in thermal power sector.

Recently, OERC had recommended a hike by an average 20 per cent for all categories of electricity consumers though the tariff remained unchanged for BPL families and agricultural activities.

Outside the assembly, a large number of CPI activists staged an agitation and roadblockade protesting the proposed hike in the power tariff by OERC.

"The OERC has not taken interest of the poor people into consideration while hiking the power tariff," CPI`s state secretary Dibakar Nayak said.