SEBs dues to Central utilities down 69% at Rs 5,023 crore

Chennai, April 20 | Updated: Apr 21 2005, 05:46am hrs
There is some good news from the power front finally. The power sector reforms, kicked off by the Central government to clean up the financial mess of state electricity boards (SEBs) a couple of years ago, have started paying off. The SEBs outstanding dues to the Central utilities have gone down by 69% till February from the shocking heights in March 1999.

It means the ordinary consumers may not have to sweat it out for long hours in the peak summer as the utilities would no longer threaten many of the SEBs with pulling the power plug to force them cough up at least a part of the dues. It also brings cheers to the millions of shareholders of those companies, some of which went public, as good balance sheets will help them doll out better pay-outs.

According to the Union ministry of power, the combined dues of all the SEBs was Rs 5,022.73 crore as of February 28, 2005. This is in comparison to a whopping Rs 16,185.6 crore they owed to Central utilities such as NTPC, PowerGrid Corporation of India Ltd (PGCIL), Power Finance Corporation (PFC) and REC as of March 30, 1999. In relative terms, the total outstanding of SEBs has come down by 69% during the March 1999-February 2005 period.

However, the reduction in the dues across SEBs and regions are not uniform as some still owe huge dues to these entities. Down south, the SEBs have done relatively well with four out of the five managing to wipe out the dues completely. Only Karnataka, which has undertaken some experiments with the power sector, owes close to Rs 79 crore to the Central utilities. While the SEBs of Kerala, TN, Andhra Pradesh and Pondicherry have no dues with the Central utilities.

Across the five regions, Delhi SEB owes highest arrears with its total outstanding as of February-end touching Rs 1,925 crore, which is almost one-fourth of the total dues of all the SEBs put together. Other major delinquents include Bihar (Rs 1,360 crore) and Assam (Rs 501 crore).