Patna, Feb. 23: Nitish Kumar has promised to ensure power supply to every household by 2015, but the budget proposals of his deputy Sushil Modi lack any impetus for the crucial energy sector.
Modi has earmarked a sum of Rs 1,790.68 crore for the energy sector under the plan head, a decrease from the previous fiscal when Rs 2,001.75 crore had been allocated. The budget says the plan allocation for the energy sector has been reduced by 10.54 per cent.
Allocation under the plan head for any sector is of special importance because the funds earmarked are used for development work. The money kept under the non-plan head is typically used for routine expenses.
The 2013-14 state budget shows a marginal increase in the non-plan head for the energy sector — up to Rs 2,559.71 crore, which is about Rs 300 crore more than the figure of Rs 2,260.23 crore for 2012-13.
Even the percentage allocation (of the total budget size) for the energy sector has gone down. It was 5.41 per cent of the Rs 78,686.83 crore budget of 2012-13. But this percentage has gone down to 4.72 of the 2013-14 budget size of Rs 92,087.93 crore.
“There appears to be no focus for the energy sector. The government has to realise that be it the primary sector or the secondary and tertiary sectors, energy is the basic need. This budget fails to take care of this factor, else the energy sector would have been allocated more funds,” industrialist Satyajit Kumar said.
Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Abdul Bari Siddiqui was more vocal in his criticism. He said: “Nitishji is in the habit of making promises which he never fulfils. Around six years ago, he had promised he won’t come to Darbhanga to seek votes if the sugar factory at Rayyam does not start functioning. The factory is still closed but the chief minister did go to seek votes there in the general elections of 2009 and the Assembly polls of 2010.”
He would do something similar after failing to deliver on his promise of providing electricity to every household by 2015,” Siddiqui said, adding that the low priority to energy has also raised questions about the seriousness of his promise.
Energy minister Bijendra Yadav, however, tried to put up a brave front.
“There is no need to jump to such conclusions. There are many things which are being done using non-plan funds and which would help in improving the power situation. We are purchasing power using this fund and many other on-going schemes are being implemented,” he said. “In case we need more funds under the plan head, we can always get it through a supplementary budget.”
The minister said after the division of the Bihar state electricity board into five holding companies, it has become easier to procure loans from different agencies. “This is a good option as the new companies have been floated with zero liability, giving scope for borrowing,” he added.
A Bihar State Power (Holding) Company official, who requested anonymity, elaborated on what Yadav said. “We are in the process of evaluating the assets of different companies,” the official said. “Once these details are available it would become easy to procure loans from different agencies and the open market.”
The official also elaborated that the budget didn’t reflect the progress being made in other fields which would help in realising the goal of giving power to every household. “One can take the example of rural electrification. Tendering for 11 districts under this programme has been done and a sum of Rs 4,000 crore would be pumped in to create the necessary infrastructure for power supply. More funds would be pumped in once the tendering process for the remaining districts is completed,” he added.
The official also said that part of the non-plan fund was being used to purchase power from the open market, which too would help in fulfilling the promise made by the chief minister.