BIHAR PULLS PLUG ON USHA BELTRON 

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By BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT in Calcutta
  • Published 17.01.00
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Calcutta, Jan 17 :     The Bihar State Electricity Board (BSEB) cut off power supply to Usha Beltron's Jamshedpur-based steel-melting shop since Friday on grounds of 'power theft'. The company has refuted the charges and moved the courts against the decision which is believed to be costing it Rs 70 lakh daily in lost revenues. The halt in power supplies has lead to a sudden closure of the plant, which employs 4,000 employees and has a daily turnover of a little more than Rs 3 crore. According to BSEB's first information report, the company 'steals' worth Rs 10 crore annually. The dispute actually centres on the quantum of power consumed to produce a given unit of steel. BSEB's calculations are based on the assumption that 100 per cent of the power drawn by the factory is used for cold-charge operations. Therefore, the board claims that the company owes it more than the annual Rs 60 crore that it now pays as charges. However, in doing so, BSEB has chosen to ignore the actual recordings at its Gamharia sub-station and the readings on meters installed in the Usha Alloys factory. What is intriguing is that the charges have been made after BSEB admitted in a CAG report the supply figures recorded at Gamharia almost match metre readings at the Usha Alloys plant. Usha Beltron officials, on the other hand, say the consumption pattern in the melting shop is 65 per cent for hot metal and 35 per cent for solid-charge activities. "How can BSEB unilaterally calculate power consumption based on 100 per cent solid-charge melting?," they complained. Contrary to BSEB's claim on the pattern of power consumption, Usha Martin Industries executive director P. Bhattacharya told The Telegraph that the mix of hot metal and solid-charge operations has actually reduced the plant's power consumption per tonne of steel produced from around 400-600 kilowatt/ hour to 170 kwh. He cited the case of Japanese steel giants like DAIWA (Mizushima) and Mitsubishi Steel Muroran Inc which have fine-tuned their melting processes in a way that cuts power consumption to 100 kwh per tonne - even lower in some cases. BSEB has marshalled its own set of arguments to justify the power cut. It says Usha Beltron rolled out 1,98,000 tonne of wire/rods but their billet production is below 1,60,000 tonnes. The SEB's argument is that the difference between the two figures is the amount of production that came from 'stolen power'. Usha Beltron officials have countered this charge by saying the company 'purchased and received' 55,000 tonnes of steel billets from Tisco, RINL, Durgapur Steel Plant, Alloy Steel Plant and British Steel for conversion. To buttress its case, UBL says it is ready to allow independent team comprising reputed audit, power and steel firms like NTPC, Mecon, SAIL and CEA to verify the company's version on the efficiency of the metering system, steel production and power consumption. The Usha Beltron group has invested around Rs 1,000 crore in its Bihar plants. The turnover from its three units - rope/wire and the jelly-filled cable factories in Ranchi, and a steel plant in Jamshedpur -is close to Rs 900 crore.