| Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee with Union power minister Ananth Geete and minister of state for power Jayawanti Mehta in New Delhi on Saturday. (PTI)
New Delhi, May 24: Launching an initiative to add 50,000 MW of hydroelectric power in 16 states here today, Prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee asked all state governments to take advantage of the new Electricity Act to speed up power sector reforms and resolve the problem of rising power cuts.
Vajpayee said, “The Union government is providing financial and technical assistance to improve the delivery of power to consumers. In return, I expect an even stronger response from the states.”
Referring to the problems faced by the people affected by hydro projects, the Prime Minister proposed a national resettlement and re-habilitation plan for project-affected persons. He said this should be approved within a period of two months by the Centre.
Vajpayee also asked the state governments to put land acquisition procedures on a fast track to help achieve the objectives. “We will review the land acquisition and related laws to ensure that they are able to do this,” he added.
Commenting on power cuts, the Prime Minister said there is growing impatience among people due to the power cuts and its impact on agriculture, industry and services. “Persistent problems in the power sector have become perhaps the biggest bottleneck in the realisation of India’s immense developmental potential. We must change this situation,” he said.
The Prime Minister said that all villages would be electrified in the next four years, while electricity would be available on demand by 2012.
He added that the Centre has given a thrust to hydro power and is aware that the installed capacity of 27,000 MW is inadequate in meeting power shortage, and the 50,000 MW additional capacity in the sector planned to be generated by the end of the Twelfth Five Year plan will help to solve the problem.
Vajpayee also expressed concern over shortage of power and wastage of electricity and called upon the state power ministers and the officials to undertake energy conservation measures in addition to the generation that needs to be doubled in the next 10 years.
He also pointed to the growing gap between the hydro thermal mix that has grown to 74.7:25.3 from 60:40 earlier.
The state governments of Bengal and Madhya Pradesh will not seek the 12 per cent free power from the hydro power projects to be set up in the states to help bring down the cost of power.
Power minister Ananth G Geete said the two states have agreed not to ask the generating companies to give the 12 per cent free power. Many other states are in advanced stages of negotiations to follow them.
The power minister said this will help the state governments to offer power at lower rates.
Currently, the states get 12 per cent free power where the projects are installed and this is used by them for their consumption within the state and to sell it commercially to other states.
While evading the issue of 5 per cent cess imposed by the generating companies as recommended by the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) for local area development, Geete said, “It is a tariff matter and should be dealt by the CERC and the government has no involvement in this.”