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Govt highrise plan to cut power utility losses

Durgapur, May 17: The government is planning to build highrises on the 800-acre Durgapur Projects Ltd (DPL) staff quarters township and sell the flats to the public to mop up Rs 3,000 crore to revive the ailing power-generation company.

Many of the flats will be kept for the 3,500-odd DPL employees who live in the compound’s ill-kept two-storied houses and sprawling bungalows. Most of these establishments are almost dilapidated.

“We have plans to construct some of the highrises on empty patches of land on priority basis to accommodate the families of the DPL families living in the compound. Later, we plan to break the staff quarters and construct highrises and sell them to the public,” a DPL official said.

Power minister Manish Gupta said discussions were on to give shape to the plan. “We are looking for options to properly utilise the vast township area of the DPL to improve the financial condition of the company. Power secretary Moloy De, also the chairman of DPL, is looking after the project,” he said.

The project had been conceived by the power minister in the Left government, Mrinal Banerjee, eight years ago but it did not take off.

According to DPL sources, the management sent to the government a proposal to set up a housing project on the company’s township land a couple of months ago. The proposal was in reply to suggestions the government had sought from the DPL on how to pull the company out of the red.

“We suggested that the government launch a commercial housing project on the township land as it is a booming business in Durgapur now. This will help improve our financial condition. We are incurring losses to the tune of crores of rupees every financial year. We proposed two options — either the project be developed in a joint venture with a private real estate firm or the DPL land be sold off to the company on the promise that once it builds the houses, 25 per cent of the flats will be set aside for our employees,” a senior DPL official said.

The DPL owes around Rs 2,000 crore to Power Finance Corporation Limited. The DPL had taken a loan of Rs 2,500 crore around three years ago to build its seventh and eighth units. The company estimates that its loss will be Rs 140 crore in the last financial (2012-2013) year, a source said. The final assessment report is yet to be prepared.

In the 2011-2012 financial year, the DPL incurred a loss of Rs 37 crore and in 2010-2011, Rs 198 crore.

Power secretary and DPL chairman De said a survey would be carried out to draw up a detailed report on the housing project and its viability. “We are discussing the project with the DPL management and will hire a consultant to conduct the survey and submit a report,” he said.

According to power department sources, the government is looking for a private partner for the execution of the project in public-private partnership mode. “We will float tenders inviting real estate companies and select a partner once the detailed project survey report is completed,” a department official said.

Now, there are around 3,800 two-storied quarters and bungalows in the DPL township. The power-generation company can’t bear the expenses of maintaining the buildings. A large number of employees have left the quarters and taken up private accommodation elsewhere in Durgapur. Around 3,500 DPL families live in the township. Many people who are not employees of the company also live on rent in the quarters.

The trade unions at the DPL welcomed the plan but said they would not allow the land to be sold to a private company.

“We have been demanding for long that a commercial housing project be undertaken on the township land so that the DPL can cut down on losses. Former power minister Mrinal Banerjee had taken up the matter eight years ago but it did not materialise. We welcome the move if the government opts for a PPP model. We will not allow DPL land to be sold to any private entity,” said Umapada Das, the INTUC general secretary at the plant.

Citu said they were agreeable to the plan and demanded that at least 15 per cent of the flats be reserved for retired DPL employees. “The former employees should be offered flats at concessional rates,” said Naren Sikdar, the Citu general secretary of the DPL.