Ranchi, Feb. 4: The Jharkhand State Electricity Board today took energy minister Lalchand Mahato head on, defying his anti-privatisation stance and awarding all aspects of power distribution to the private sector.
The move overturns Mahato’s promise to the people of the state that he would vehemently oppose any effort to break up the power utility or privatise any section of its activities.
Sources disclosed that at an emergency meeting attended by JSEB chief Rajiv Ranjan, top power officials, I.G. vigilance and representatives of MECON, the power utility today decided to go ahead with its privatisation programme for distribution of power in the state capital.
The JSEB has decided to “engage strategic investors for asset management and power distribution in Ranchi town” to begin with, the sources said. The privatisation programme will then be extended to Jamshedpur, Dhanbad, Hazaribagh and Dumka subsequently.
The sources said the entire distribution network — from the grid sub stations to the houses of nearly 1.20 lakh consumers —would be offered to private agencies. They would have to handle all activities starting from power distribution and operation to maintenance of assets on an as-is-where-is basis within the framework of state regulatory control.
However, the electricity board has decided to retain MECON, Ranchi, as a consultant in the privatisation programme, the sources added.
Sources revealed that revenue collections from the Ranchi circle stood at Rs 1,200 million at present but was expected to grow substantially. Ranchi, selected by the JSEB to be offered to private hands, is already one of the important beneficiaries of the accelerated power development and reform programme, an important centrally sponsored scheme.
Sources said that based on the response, the JSEB had decided to hand over the distribution business of the state capital by the middle of this year.
When contacted, Mahato said he was still opposed to the privatisation of the JSEB but he would chalk out his future course of action only after going through the formal documents.