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Gail waits for Northeast dues

New Delhi, July 27: The power utilities of Assam and Tripura owe around Rs 140 crore to Gail (India) Ltd. These arrears have been mounting as the cash-strapped governments have not been able to pay for the natural gas supplied to these power utilities from Oil and Natural Gas Corporationís fields in these states through the Gail pipeline network.

Sources disclose that while the Assam State Electricity Board owes Rs 56 crore, another Rs 1 crore is due from Namrup Fertiliser Company.

The arrears of the Tripura governmentís department of power have risen to Rs 42 crore while that of the Northeastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO) have gone up to Rs 41 crore.

The petroleum ministry is reported to have taken up the case with both the power ministry and the ministry of finance. Oil India also supplies natural gas to these utilities and is reported to be facing a similar situation.

The northeastern states are supplied natural gas at a price that is much lower than the rest of the country. While the rest of India has been getting gas at a price between Rs 2,150 to 2,850 per thousand cubic metres (MCM), the price for the north-eastern states ranges between Rs 1,200 to Rs 1,700 per MCM.

The government is working out a bonds securitisation scheme to help the electricity boards of the northeastern states pay their dues to Gail and Oil India Ltd .

The scheme is now being given the finishing touches by the finance ministry. It will entail the issue of 10-year state government bonds at 8.5 per cent rate of interest payable every six months.

The repayments will be in 10 equal half-yearly installments commencing after a moratorium of five years.

The other features of the scheme include part waiver of interest on case-to-case basis and payment of current dues through letter of credit.

The scheme has been devised on the lines of the scheme that has been adopted for other state electricity boards as well. Apart from helping realisation of old dues the scheme also aims to ensure that current dues are paid in time.

ONGC foots the subsidy bill for the Northeast though the gas pool account. This subsidy is paid to Oil India Ltd which supplies natural gas separately. However, the payment made by ONGC to the gas pool account exceeded the subsidy paid to the northeastern states. As a result there is a surplus of Rs 268 crore in the account.

After the ceiling of gas price was raised for the rest of the country by Rs 350 per MCM it has been decided that ONGC will contribute only the exact amount of the subsidy to the pool account which works to around Rs 100 crore. This will save ONGC Rs 150 crore a year.

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