Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is not happy with the manner in which the NTPC Thermal Power Plant at Barh is being handled. He apprehends that the power plant after the expose involving payment of kickbacks by the Russian company for procuring the Rs 2,066 crore project might be further delayed.
“Bihar has always been neglected by the Centre and the CBI inquiry exposing payment of kickback into the deal might further delay the commissioning of the project. But, I want the project to be taken up on a priority basis after clearing all hurdles,” he told Hindustan Times.
The chief minister, who was instrumental in bringing the project to his then parliamentary constituency, said that it was sanctioned after many efforts by the then NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. “As per its initial schedule, the first unit of the project was to be commissioned by 2008 and the entire project was to be completed by 2009. However, the project has been delayed inordinately for one reason or the other,” he said.
Seeking a thorough inquiry into the alleged payment of kickbacks, he asked the Centre to find out the names of the recipients of kickbacks and initiate suitable action against them.
“But the ongoing inquiry should not be made an alibi to stall the project further, as Bihar faces acute power crisis and the Barh NTPC project was quite crucial for it,” he added.
Kumar also pitched for a power purchase agreement with the NTPC and the Centre for procuring power produced by the Barh Thermal Power project. The then state government (Lalu Prasad government) had not entered into any agreement with the NTPC for purchasing power from the Barh project.
“Ideally, the state could have got a quota of at least 35 to 40 per cent of power generated from this project,” he said.
Even the captains of industry in Bihar don’t want the project to be deferred or shelved for this reason.
“We want that the recipients of kickbacks should be identified and punished, but the project must not stop,” said Kailash Prasad Jhunjhunwala, president of the Bihar Industries Association.
Training his gun at the Centre, he said, “The Centre has refused to provide coal linkages for the new thermal power stations till the 12th Plan period and the Central Water Commission has put a blanket ban on use of water from rivers of Ganga basin for thermal power stations. This clearly means that Bihar cannot generate electricity on its own nor can it expand its existing thermal power stations for next six to seven years.”