The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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PM lends spark to power-price debate

New Delhi, April 4: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today urged political parties to evolve a broad consensus on working towards rational pricing policies to ensure that more investments flow into the power sector.

'The challenge of rational pricing and distribution of electricity has to be addressed in a non-partisan manner,' he said while launching the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojna.

The new scheme, aimed at providing electricity to the country's 74,000 villages still out of the loop, in a time-bound manner by 2009 was launched in the presence of National Advisory Council chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

Expressing concern over poor delivery systems in power, Gandhi underlined the government's commitment to involve panchayats in implementation of the plan and in ensuring that the targets under it are achieved.

'Electricity should be valued and used judiciously at all times. Even when governments offer subsidy to certain categories of users, they must understand the relevance of this subsidy and have respect for the asset being provided to them,' the Prime Minister said. 'I, therefore, urge our political leadership to take a long-term and national perspective in pursuing energy policy,' he added.

The government has allocated Rs 5,000 crore for subsidies under the scheme. 'In a country of over a billion people and a dynamic economy growing at over 7 per cent, we are going to consume more energy and we will have to generate this,' the Prime Minister added.

The challenge of generating, distributing and pricing electricity, he said, has to be addressed in a non-partisan manner so that power is spread across the country quickly and new investments are made in the vital sector.

Declaring rural electrification a key foundation stone in the modernisation of agriculture, Singh said: 'We cannot delay the implementation of this basic commitment any longer and this Yojna is an important first step.'

The scheme was launched across the country through a video conference in which 12 chief ministers participated.

Sonia said the National Common Minimum Programme laid the greatest stress on rural prosperity and the government was committed to fully implementing it.

She said the Bharat Nirman Programme and the plan launched today were steps in that direction. Top priority would be given to the development of agriculture, employment, education, health and rural electrification.

Last month, the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) said it would come out with guidelines to calculate cross-subsidy in a way that a seven-member committee of regulators recommended. The committee focused on the electricity act's objective of promoting open access by forcing utilities to shore up efficiency levels.

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