A report by an independent Mumbai-based think tank has put a question mark on Narendra Modi’s development claims. It lends credence to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s comment that Gujarat’s power situation is grim.
The reputed agency that monitors Indian economy for its corporate subscribers has said in its updated Gujarat profile that the average deficit in power distribution was 10.67 per cent — the highest being 23.72 per cent during peak hours in the past year.
It attributed the deficit to the state-owned Kandana and Sardar Sarovar hydro-electricity projects and said that 10 of the 20 power projects announced were still on paper.
Gujarat’s daily power demand is about 8,500MW, of which the government and private producers generate 6,145MW. The rest comes from the Central sector and producers outside the state. The government has privatised power business in major cities like Ahmedabad and Surat.
“How can Gujarat become the number one state when there is power shortage? How can new industries be set up in Gujarat?” said the Prime Minister at Thursday’s rallies, questioning Modi’s development rhetoric.
He promised that the UPA government would solve the problem within three years by setting up a 4,000MW mega plant in Mundra.
No wonder then that the Congress has lapped up Singh’s remark. Workers are using the issue to turn the heat on Modi. AICC general secretary Mukul Wasnik, camping in Gujarat, told HT that the party would expose the government’s tall claim of electricity reforms.
But an energy department officer said on condition of anonymity that in just over two years the state spent Rs 1,000 crore to erect 12 lakh poles to connect rural households to a separate feeder.
“Jyotigram Yojana has ensured uninterrupted three-phase power supply to domestic consumers of rural Gujarat.” The separation of feeders has also ensured eight-hour guaranteed supply, he said adding that power-deficit states like Maharashtra were implementing a similar model.
A Gujarat State Electricity Corporation senior officer claimed that reforms helped the state’s power company recover huge losses that it had incurred until 2004.
But Wasnik alleged that to enforce reforms the BJP put lakhs of consumers behind bars on false charges of power theft. “The government forcefully recovered fines from these poor people and I’m sure they will show Modi the exit door.”