Maharashtra Govt Draws Flak For Poor Show On Power Front

Mumbai: | Updated: Oct 28 2002, 05:30am hrs
The ruling Democratic Front (DF) government in Maharashtra, which has been ranked fifth by credit agency Crisil for its dismal performance in the power sector, has been rapped by Union power minister Anant Geete for inaction with regard to capacity addition. It has also been flayed for its continuing reluctance to involve the private sector or central public sector undertakings in project development.

During his maiden interaction with the media in Mumbai last week, Mr Geete snubbed chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh for not even responding to a communication by his predecessor, Suresh Prabhu, on May 31 this year, regarding extension of central assistance to tide over power shortage and upgradation of the transmission and distribution network.

However, Mr Deshmukh was quick to deny this charge. The timing of the press conference coincided with the completion of the three-year rule of the National Democratic Alliance at the Centre as well as the Congress-led governments rule in the state.

Mr Geetes attack with a candid submission that he was not keen on politicising the issue is significant as the state has been carrying out daily load-shedding of 1,500 mw to 2,000 mw. Besides, the state cabinet is yet to give a formal nod to the resumption of Dabhol phase-I (658 mw) power purchase at Rs 2.80 tariff cleared by its co-ordination committee on October 11.

Maharashtra, which has an installed capacity of 13,074.37 mw, has projected a capacity addition of 15,018.37 mw, comprising 1,444 mw of Dabhol phase-II and 500 mw from the state sector.

To expedite matters, Mr Deshmukh has convened a special cabinet meeting on October 30 to give a critical look to the power shortage, revival of Dabhol phase-I, and seeking of additional power from the Centre. The Opposition Shiv Sena-BJP combine, which had failed to take any concrete steps toward capacity addition but for dumping and reviving the Dabhol project during its rule, has however decided to draw political mileage from the current power shortage and load-shedding.

Mr Geete was more explicit in his tirade against the state and the ailing Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB) for simply sitting on the proposals submitted by the state-run National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) for setting up of at least two plants with a total capacity of 2,000 mw and offtake of power from its various projects coming up in the western region. Curiously, MSEB had rejected NTPCs offer on the grounds that it was not financially strong to take the hit as it was unable to cope with the Enron fallout. MSEB also denied an escrow cover sought by NTPC for entering into a power purchase agreement for supply from its Korba-619 mw, Vindhyachal-729 mw, Kawas-204 mw and Gandhar-188 mw.

According to Union power secretary RV Shahi, had the state as well as MSEB given the green signal for drawal of power from these projects, it would have got additional 1,500 mw which it declined for reasons known to them. He said for the future, NTPCs projects in the eastern region, like north Karanpura, Kahalgaon and Barh, would be available for power transfer to other regions, including Maharashtra. However, the state seems reluctant to seek any power from these projects.

Ironically, Maharashtra has also declined to look at the feasibility of implementing new projects by the National Hydro Power Corporation. In addition, the state government has been sitting on the proposals submitted by Tata Power Company for repowering of its Trombay plant with additional capacity of around 450 mw, BSES Saphale project-490 mw and BSES coal-based project of 2,000 mw in Amravati.

MSEB has already put on hold Reliances Patalganga Power Companys 437 mw project and the Ispat-promoted Bhadrawati project-1,082 mw by terming it as the second Enron. MSEB had argued then that it would not be possible to absorb power generated from these projects at the cost of its own projects. Also, it said had no funds to purchase power from these promoters.