Perhaps unnerved by city-based corporate houses such as the Reliance group, Hinduja, Mahindra & Mahindra and Adlabs promising investments to Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal on Wednesday, Maharashtra cabinet ministers raised the issue of high power tariffs in the state which are driving the industries out.
The widespread concern gave the weekly meeting a stormy start before the cabinet could discuss the official agenda.
The issue was brought up by industries minister Narayan Rane, who along with other ministers sought immediate relief, stating that the industrial power tariff in Maharashtra is Rs2 to Rs2.50 higher than in its neighbouring states.
Being a pre-poll year, the concern found immediate resonance with chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, who decided to form a group of ministers to recommend ways to reduce electricity charges.
The power regulator had recently revised tariffs of all the three private companies in Mumbai, while the staterun Mahavitaran, which supplies electricity to the rest of Maharashtra as well as the city’s eastern suburbs, was asked to recover hefty charges, and a hike is expected.
One of the options suggested was to increase the tariff for agricultural consumers, who avail power at highly subsidised rates.
Energy minister Ajit Pawar and energy secretary Ajoy Mehta demanded that their department be given Rs3,800 crore of the Rs8,000 crore due from farmers. The state power supplier has started disconnecting supply to farmers who have not paid their dues in the past 12 months.
The low rate for the agricultural category is possible only because of the cross-subsidy provided by the industrial consumers.
The convener of the coordination committee of state power consumers and i ndustrial organisations Pratap Hogade said the government should take a decision in next 10 days or it will face a massive agitation.
“The government can direct the regulator under section 108 of the Electricity Act to stay the recent tariff hike for all [power] companies in the state,” he said.
Before the 2009 polls, a similar directive was issued to stay the tariff hike for suburban supplier Reliance Infrastructure.