Centre blames states’ dues for coal shortage | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Centre blames states’ dues for coal shortage

By, New Delhi
Apr 29, 2022 06:04 AM IST

India on Thursday met a recordpeak power demand of 204.653 GW — the highest the country has ever met (overall) — according to the power ministry, which has projected the demand to further peak at about 215GW in the coming months.

Union minister RK Singh on Thursday blamed states for electricity outages in some parts of the country amid rising power demand in the face of an uncharacteristic heatwave, saying the problems were not due to shortage of coal but because of non-payment dues to Coal India Limited (CIL), delay in lifting coal, and “improper planning”.

FILE PHOTO - Noida, India - June 07, 2014: Electricity outages continue to trouble residents of the city from past several days. in Noida, India, on Saturday, June 07, 2014. Apart from rostering of 2 to 3 hours, undeclared power cuts were reported in several sectors due to local faults. (Photo by Burhaan Kinu / Hindustan Times)
FILE PHOTO - Noida, India - June 07, 2014: Electricity outages continue to trouble residents of the city from past several days. in Noida, India, on Saturday, June 07, 2014. Apart from rostering of 2 to 3 hours, undeclared power cuts were reported in several sectors due to local faults. (Photo by Burhaan Kinu / Hindustan Times)

India on Thursday met a recordpeak power demand of 204.653 GW — the highest the country has ever met (overall) — according to the power ministry, which has projected the demand to further peak at about 215GW in the coming months.

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Asked about the quantum of electricity shortage, Singh said that in April, 70 million units of peak power demand could not be met across the country, up from 14 million units in March.

“Power shortages are primarily happening because states have not paid their dues to CIL or they have been unable to lift coal on time which has been allotted to them or because of wrong planning by them in general. Then there are also instances wherein discoms do not buy power from the exchange and simply resort to load shedding,” Singh told reporters on Thursday.

His comments came at a time when the Centre and Opposition-ruled states are sparring over high prices.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged some Opposition-ruled states to reduce VAT, or value added tax, on petrol and diesel. On Thursday, Union minister Hardeep Puri also hit out at the Opposition stating that air ticket prices have not come down because states such as West Bengal, Maharashtra and Delhi continue to impose 25%-plus VAT on air turbine fuel.

These comments sparked a huge row between the Centre and states, with several chief ministers hitting out at the Union government for allegedly profiting from fuel, charging cess, sharing selective data, and wrongly blaming states for spiralling prices.

Singh’s power shortage comment, too, sparked a sharp response from atleast four states.

Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha member and national spokesperson Sukhendu Sekhar Roy said: “The blind policy of the Modi government is responsible for the nationwide coal crisis today. During the erstwhile Congress era, private companies were allotted coal blocks indiscriminately and the policy continues. Some of these companies don’t even have their own power plants in all places, but they extract more coal than required, only to smuggle it out. Central paramilitary forces are supposed to guard these mines. Coal-rich states such as Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha have been financially deprived because the Modi government amended old laws that entitled states to royalty on coal. The money goes to the Centre. This is looting. The Centre is blaming the non-BJP ruled states to hide its corrupt policies.”

Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) general secretary and spokesperson Supriyo Bhattacharya said Coal India and its subsidiaries over more than 1 lakh crore to Jharkhand. “On one hand, the PM asks states to reduce VAT on petrol and diesel and does not clear state’s funds. Maximum transporation of coal happens through rail freight but the state does not get GST share for it. The CM had recently written to the Centre putting forth the state’s demand to clear the outstanding dues of Coal India and its subsidiaries. If that is not cleared, we will stop supply,” he said.

Tamil Nadu chief minister MK Stalin too wrote to PM Modi urging him to direct the coal ministry to supply the state 72,000 MT coal per day.

While the BJP-ruled Haryana government has decided to import coal for the first time in a decade, Maharashtra, West Bengal have had to resort to scheduled power cuts to regulate supply. The BJP-led Madhya Pradesh government has also requested for additional coal rakes from the Centre.

According to data shared by central government officials, who asked not to be named, as on April 18, state-owned companies or state electricity boards had dues amounting to 7,918.72 crore to the central government’s CIL, which produces 80% of India’s coal. The data showed that Maharashtra’s owed at least 2,608.07 crore, West Bengal 1,506.97 crore, Jharkhand at least 1,018.22 crore, and Tamil Nadu 823.92 crore. All four are Opposition-ruled states. They were followed by BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh which owes 531.42 crore.

In total, as on April 28, generation companies owed a total of 1,05,513 crore to the Centre, while transmission companies owed 4,459 crore, according to the data.

On Wednesday, Maharashtra power minister Nitin Raut had said the state is facing “power politics”. “Because Maharashtra is in the hands of the MVA (Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi) government, the government of India is not cooperating properly with Maharashtra and that’s why the shortage is fabricated here,” he said.

The Union minister said the government is now pushing gencos to increase coal imports, which is contrary to the Centre’s stand in December, when it said that there should be no imports other than very essential ones. In 2019-20, Indian power plants imported about 69 million tonne of coal, which came down to 27 million tonne in 2021-22.

Coal imports have become costlier also because of the war in Ukraine, an official said. He added that state have been asked to sign long-term import deals for up to three years to ensure supply and lower prices. They have also been asked to buy rail wagons to resolve the logistics problems for coal transportation, which has been identified as the primary cause for the coal shortage at power plants.

“We have ramped up coal production by a record 15% only for our domestic power plants between the financial year 2019-20 and 2021-22. But, the power demand has increased even faster by 20% during the same period. The steep increase in power demand is a good sign as it means that the economy is growing. But, it also increases the responsibility of the power ministry,” Singh said.

“We have so far reserved coal stocks for 21 million units, which is sufficient to run all our power plants for 10 days if they don’t get the usual coal stock. So plants don’t draw from this reserve every day. They draw from it only when the receipts are lower than the consumption (demand); when the daily supplies form coal mines stop.”

India has been reeling under a coal crisis which aggravated between October and November last year as well, owing to extended monsoons and an increase in the demand for domestic coal over expensive imported coal. The crisis triggered power supply issues in several states and union territories such as Delhi, Maharashtra and Gujarat where distribution companies (discoms) had to resort to scheduled power cuts.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Sweta Goswami writes on politics, urban development, transportation, energy and social welfare. Based in Delhi, she tracks government policies and suggests corrections based on public feedback and on-ground implementation through her reports. She has also covered the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) since its inception.

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