The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Industry sparks fly over minister's power threat

Calcutta, Sept. 10: The power crisis in the state today threatened to trigger a confrontation between business and the government which wants industry to restrict consumption in the evening peak period.

When members of the Bengal National Chamber of Commerce opposed power minister Mrinal Banerjee's appeal to draw less, he said: 'We will request industries... If they do not listen' we may have to enforce it.' He was speaking at a seminar, 'Emerging scenario in the power sector in West Bengal', at the chamber of commerce.

K.K. Navada, the chairman of Eastern Switchgear & Electrical Company, said: 'Industry will misbehave if suddenly the government asks to switch off power since a need has arisen. The government should give a notice of at least 15-30 days so that we can talk to workers and reschedule work.' Most other members of the chamber agreed.

The government feels that the industry did not heed the minister's request when the state experienced a 900-mw shortfall last evening.

The combined shortfall in CESC and state electricity board areas this evening was 485 mw. CESC stepped up generation and produced 983 mw to stem the crisis.

Three 210-mw units at the Kolaghat plant collapsed on Wednesday to add to an existing crisis.

The industry today questioned the quality of power in the state. President of the chamber S.K. Chakraborty told Banerjee to ensure not just adequate power but uninterrupted supply of quality power, a pre-requisite for industries.

'Export-oriented processing units, particularly in textile, hosiery, paper, plastics and rubber are adversely affected unless uninterrupted flow of good quality power is ensured,' Chakraborty added.

Banerjee said he was aware of the problem of shortage. 'The recent crisis is mainly due to shortage of power from the central sector (National Thermal Power Corporation). We are supposed to get 1,000 mw from there but are getting only 300-350 mw. Moreover, Kolaghat, which generates 1,260 mw, is facing problems. However, they have been addressed and generation is increasing,' he said.

Power department sources said the three 210-mw units now operational at Kolaghat are generating about 500 mw. They generated 350 mw last evening.

The members of the industry lobby questioned the state's preparedness to meet the increasing demand for power in the next two years. Power generation in Bengal will get a 1,570-mw boost by 2007, not before that.

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