Cuttack, Dec. 24: The Odisha government is in trouble for alleged non-compliance of Orissa High Court’s directions aimed to prevent cascading effect on power tariff and affecting the general public.
The high court had issued the directions on March 30 while disposing of a PIL that challenged the enhanced power tariff the Odisha Electricity Regulatory Commission had announced for 2011-12.
The Keonjhar Navanirman Parishad, the Federation of Consumer Organisations, Odisha, and a consumer Arun Kumar Sahoo, who had filed the PIL, have now accused the government of inaction on the directions by way of filing a contempt petition.
The division bench of Justice Pradip Mohanty and Justice B.K. Mishra, before which the contempt application came up on Friday, issued showcause contempt notices to the commission chairman Satya Prakash Nanda, secretary of the energy department Pradip Jena and secretary of water resources department Suresh Mohapatra. The court will take up the matter after four weeks.
While delivering the judgment on the PIL in March, the high court had expressed disinclination to interfere on tariff fixation on grounds of jurisdiction. But, the court had issued certain directions.
Taking note of allegation that the commission is passing on to the consumers high loss incurred by the distribution loss while fixing tariff every year, the court had directed it to ensure that “the distribution companies upgrade the new distribution system”.
It has also asked the commission to make sure that “financial investment of funds by distribution companies is also raised for development and improvement of the existing system of generation and transmission”.
It was alleged that drawing of water from reservoirs by industries was resulting in loss in hydropower generation and purchase of high-cost power and consequent periodic increase in tariff.
Taking note of it, the court had directed: “In order to make optimum use of water in the reservoirs the government should come forward with a policy within three months from today to maintain a balance between the use of water by the industrial units and running of hydro electricity projects with their optimum capacity, so that the hydro electricity projects would not suffer or run under capacity because of overdrawal of water by the industries.”
The industries were allowed to draw water from four reservoirs — Hirakud, Power Channel, Kolab and Samal — and according to the agreement, provisions they were required to compensate the loss of power generation for the quantum of water drawn at the rate of Rs 1.5 lakh for every cusec.
The Odisha government was directed “to take steps to compute the amount of compensation to be recovered from the industrial units, which had used the water, and ensure that the said amount is recovered within a period of three months”. Records submitted by the government in the court indicated that by July, 2011, as many as 14 of the 18 industries drawing water from reservoirs owed a whopping Rs 149.65 crore.
The government had further asked for framing of appropriate legal provisions for creation of “a corpus by imposing levy on the industries drawing water from different reservoirs for the purpose of maintenance of the reservoirs and water sources by making periodical dredging and removal of shoals”.