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Power hurdle for brewery giant

- Energy problems halt Carlsberg progress, Uttar Pradesh firm complains of extortion

Power woes have held up brewery giant Carlsberg’s manufacturing process at its Bikram plant.

Two years ago on October 30, the Danish company started work on the construction of its seventh brewery in the country — the first in Bihar — at Bikram, 65km southwest of Patna. It was supposed to start brewing by 2013. Not only has it been delayed, fluctuating power and supply failure has hit the company hard. Construction of the plant is almost over but manufacturing is a far way off.

On June 6, the company wrote a letter to the industry department, stating that poor power supply was hampering the project. They complained about frequent power supply failure at the 33KV line and voltage fluctuations.

The company, bogged down with the delay, requested Bihar State Power (Holding) Company to provide a dedicated power supply grid. The existing facility, it said, supplied power for domestic purposes, resulting in uneven voltage.

The industry department officials concerned claimed the matter has been resolved.

An official in the directorate of technical development said: “The issue had come before the department and also the regular udyog adalat. The company said voltage fluctuations was causing problems and their modern equipment couldn’t function. They sought immediate help to start manufacturing and even suggested a few measures. The department took note. According to our information, the problem has been solved. At present, we do not have an idea whether the brewery has started manufacturing.”

The ground reality says otherwise though.

R. Laxmanan, managing director, South Bihar Power Distribution Company Ltd., however, said: “Carlsberg had taken a connection from the 33KV feeder, but it supplies power to six power sub-stations too, leading to the voltage fluctuations. We discussed the matter with the Carlsberg officials. They were convinced about the need for a dedicated feeder for the brewery. The cost has to be incurred by the industry department and we have directed the electrical executive engineer of Bihta to supervise the work. The process to set up an independent feeder for Carlsberg is on.”

The company officials could not be reached for a detailed response.

Carlsberg decided to have a brewery at Bikram with a start-up capacity to manufacture 0.5 million hectolitres of beer (one hectolitre equals 100 litres). The Rs 140-crore project is spread across 24 acres.

The company said that they would start manufacturing once there was uninterrupted power supply. When The Telegraph contacted Carlsberg India officials in the last week of June, they had hoped to start operation by the end of this quarter.

If the brewery giant is beset with power problems, another company is facing law and order problems.

Kanpur-based Alkareem Agro Industries, which invested in Bihar last year, wanted to set up a meat processing plant in Siwan district. The total project cost was around Rs 44 crore. Extortion demands have made matters difficult for the firm.

Sayed Zaha Hasan, one of the partners, said: “Work on the project, spread on 17 acres in the Chowk Hasan area of Siwan town, is under way. For some months though, officials at the site are facing extortion demands. We tried to deal with the criminals, who would turn up at the site, but they turned violent. We lodged an FIR at the local police station but the cops didn’t take any action. Last month, we wrote a letter to the industries department. Till now, there has been no action. We have now approached the court as we have already invested Rs 6.50 crore into the project. We came to Bihar seeing the good governance of Nitish Kumar. But ever since the split in alliance and Nitish’s resignation, the situation has gone awry. Right now, we don’t have much options but expecting help from the government and the police.”