Kathmandu’s decision to procure 20 million LED bulbs from New Delhi has led to outrage in Nepal, with media reports claiming the government of Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” is buying sub-standard products at rates above the market price.
The government, through a recent Cabinet decision, gave its nod to a proposal from the energy ministry to purchase the bulbs from Energy Efficiency Services Limited, a joint venture of state-owned undertakings of the Indian power ministry, at a cost of Nepalese Rs 2 billion.
The move will significantly reduce energy consumption in Nepal, with some estimates stating the bulbs could cut energy usage by up to 200 MW.
The decision, taken just days ahead of elections to local government bodies, has come in for strong criticism. Media reports suggested irregularities in the procurement process and questioned why the bulbs were bought for Nepalese Rs 65 per unit — almost twice the price in India.
Energy minister Janardan Sharma and Kul Man Ghising, managing director of Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) — authorised to procure the bulbs from India — held separate news conferences on Tuesday and rejected the allegations of financial irregularities.
“I will leave the country if someone proves that I received money from the deal for LED bulbs,” Ghising said. “I don’t have to cheat Nepali people through LED bulbs. Allowing load-shedding for a couple of hours would have sufficed if I indeed wanted money.”
Sharma described the accusations as “false” and “baseless”, saying the process to buy the bulbs would be initiated after an agreement between the governments of Nepal and India.