ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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THE FOURTH ESTATE-Desh and Bangladesh

expansion of power generation and distribution, in the public sector as much as in the private sector, having for the most part to bell financed by funds raised on commercial terms, there can be just no escape from rational pricing of electricity, As the dismal record of the Eighth Plan in the matter of addition to power generation capacity (some 16,000 MW against the original target of 48,00O MW and the scaled down target of 30,500 MW) and the experience with the large number of proposed power projects currently in limbo establish clearly, the alternative to rationally-priced power is no power. This of course should be power minister Kumaramangalam's clinching argument against the opponents of his ordinance, but apparently even he has not grasped the point clearly enough* For there he was talking to the Independent Power Producers' Association last week with his head in the clouds about how he was confident that the growth of power generation capacity in the Ninth Plan would exceed the target of 40,000 MW by around 10,000 MW. Instead of focusing on the unresolved institutional and pricing issues which are holding up investment in the power sector, he chose to lecture his audience on the superiority in terms of cost of 'mega power plants' over captive power generation. Does Kumaramangalam really need to be informed that if industries have come to rely increasingly on captive power this has not been out of choice but from necessity because over large parts of the country supply, from the utilities has grown progressively scarce and erratic. (According to the findings of a survey of 80-odd large units in the chemical industry reported in the press recently, self-generation of electricity by them had grown by over 21 per cent annually between 1990 and 1994 where as their electricity purchases had fallen annually by 0,4 per cent.) What is more, thanks to the atrocious electricity pricing policies and practices which have got entrenched on the pretext of advancing social objectives, even the ordinarily obvious proposition that utility-generated power would be cheaper than captive power produced by small-scale plants docs not hold true for large sections of high-tension industrial power consumers in India. If this stale of affairs is to be changed, the last thing we need is the sort of mindless complacency displayed by the power minister at the meeting referred to above. Nominally Kumaramangalam may be a member of parliament representing the BJP, but he has chosen Tamil Nadu to make his political fortune in. So it is not altogether improbable that his early reformist zeal has been smothered already by the strong winds blowing from the direction of Jayalalitha's Poes Garden headquarters.

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