Calcutta, July 20: Be it an industry meet or a political rally, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee never fails to mention how Bengal is power surplus. Still, the state electricity board bleeds and rural electrification targets remain “underachieved”.
To top it all, there is hardly any initiative from the government to kickstart power sector reforms to clean up its balance sheet and improve per capita power consumption. According to Planning Commission figures, the per capita power consumption of 204.4 kilowatt-hours is way below the all-India average of 354.75 kilowatt-hours (1999-2000).
The report of the comptroller and auditor general of India (CAG) for the year ended March 2002 says that the government’s efforts to meet its target of electrification of all villages by 2006 are far from satisfactory. By 2002, it could achieve only 24 per cent of the target of intensification of electrified mouzas and 71 per cent of the virgin mouzas. Only 11 per cent of the shallow tubewells could be energised.
The report says: “The targets of rural electrification had remained substantially underachieved due to lack of coordination among the West Bengal Rural Energy Development Corporation Ltd (WBREDC), the West Bengal State Electricity Board and zilla parishads.”
Despite agreeing to the Centre’s power sector reform plans for modernisation, renovation of thermal and hydel units and for upgradation of transmission, sub-transmission and distribution networks, the government could not ensure implementation in a time-bound manner.
The report says that though the rural energy development corporation was created, it neither got employees nor received the licence required to energise the installations that it erected. Though Rs 306.07 crore was released in its favour, the corporation could use only 44 per cent of it and a part of it lay idle with the zilla parishads.
The government failed to meet its target of metering all consumers by December 2001. It also did little to restructure distribution and minimise transmission and distribution losses.
Though priority was given to revenue generation and an estimate of Rs 1362.4 crore — by tariff revision, enhanced realisation, reduction in avoidable expenses and hike in security deposits — was made in July 2001, the programme fell flat because of poor implementation.
“No effective step was taken to increase its (the state electricity board’s) revenue except an increase of Rs 200 crore by tariff revision,” says the report.
Besides, the electricity board did not take appropriate steps to realise an overdue of Rs 750.88 crore from CESC, Rs 119.03 crore from other power boards and Rs 57.98 crore from disconnected customers.
The government, however, turned a blind eye and released Rs 150 crore to the electricity board as subsidy for 2000 and 2002.