In what shows an unprecedented level of commitment on the part of the state electricity boards to revive their finances, some of the heavily indebted ones among them have begun to penalise their employees for any laxity in implementing the Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY).
FE has learnt that the Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana SEBs have even resorted to the extreme step of cutting salaries of the engineers and technicians concerned to recover the losses from any excess supply of electricity through the feeders. Reducing the pilferage — aggregate technical and commercial losses — to 15% by FY19 is one of the main ingredients of the UDAY scheme. While the average pan-India AT&C losses are around 23%, some states like UP, Bihar and Haryana report losses of over 40%.
A junior engineer in charge of feeders at Jodhpur in Rajasthan was informed by his senior recently that a sum of R62,920.69 would be deducted from his salary to compensate for the loss caused from excess supplies through 11 KV feeders under his supervision. “While going through the report of 11 KV feeders emanating from sub-stations under your jurisdiction, it was noticed that total 48.54 hours of excess supply has been fed through 11 KV feeders resulting in financial loss of R62,920.69 to discom,” said the letter to the junior engineer, a copy of which was reviewed by FE.
It further added that despite repeated instructions the official had failed to discharge his duties properly, which had forced the authority to recover the loss borne by the discom from his salary.
A power ministry official told FE that states fear their share in the central scheme like integrated power development scheme and Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana could be curtailed if they fail to bring down AT&C losses to the mandated level of 15% by FY19. It has been estimated that potential saving for all discoms across the country could be more than Rs 50,000 crore if a target of 15% AT&C losses is achieved.
“Steps like fixing accountability for discom employees are a result of commitment made by discoms and state governments under UDAY to bring down losses,” a power ministry official told FE. He confirmed that Rajasthan was not the only state trying to bring errant discoms staff in line but that other states have also adopted similar measures.
While political expediency regarding non-revision of tariff to reflect the true cost of power has often been blamed for the near-bankrupt condition of state-run discoms, the companies themselves have been undisciplined when it comes to operational efficiency of discoms, leading to high losses attributable to theft of electricity.
The tripartite MoU signed under UDAY seeks to bring in much-needed efficiency into the working of discoms. The discoms have been mandated to “prepare loss reduction targets at division and zonal level and making concerned officers responsible for achieving the loss reduction targets”.
UDAY was launched last year to help loss-making discoms come out of a debt trap. The total outstanding loan for discoms stood at over Rs 4.5 lakh crore at the end of December. Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana account for over two-thirds of the entire SEB debt.