Power Minister assures Rs 7096 cr grants to J&K for Centrally Schemes

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Dec 7: Union Power Minister RK Singh today agreed to consider Jammu and Kashmir demands for Central funding to the tune of Rs 7096 crores for construction of power projects in Ladakh, implementing ‘Power For All’ and Soubhagya schemes by next year and strengthening transmission networks in all rural areas of the State.
Singh, who presided over one-day Round Table Conference of Power Ministers of all States and Union Territories in New Delhi today, however, called upon Jammu and Kashmir to bring down Transmission & Distribution losses, remodel power tariff, introduce e-metering, reduce dependence on Centre for power and set up DISCOMS (power distribution companies in the State) as the Centre was shortly going to bring a legislation for imposing penalty on the DISCOMS for “unnecessary disruptions” in power to the people from March 2019.
Singh gave the assurances for addition funding of around Rs 7096 crores to the State, in his address, after listening to the demands projected by a high-level State delegation at the Conference of Power Ministers, which was led by Deputy Chief Minister, Incharge Power Development Department, Dr Nirmal Singh and comprised Commissioner/Secretary Power Hirdesh Kumar and Officer on Special Duty (OSD) Shakti Pathak.
Official sources told the Excelsior that the Union Power Minister directed top bureaucrats of his Ministry to sit with Jammu and Kashmir officials to work out the modalities for additional funding sought by Jammu and Kashmir for implementation of various Centrally Sponsored Schemes including Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiatives like `Power for All’ by December 2018.
Sources said Jammu and Kashmir had been sanctioned Rs 3632 crores under Prime Minister’s Development Plan (PMDP), Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY) and Integrated Power Development Schemes (IPDS) for strengthening power transmission and distribution in villages of the State by upgrading HT&LT lines, transformers etc.
“The State delegation, however, cited that Rs 3632 crores were sanctioned with 2015 as baseline but the tenders received by the Government had quoted 40 per cent highest costs after implementation of GST and taking other factors into account. Therefore, the State sought Rs 1452.86 crores more from the Union Power Ministry to implement the schemes,” they added.
It sought Rs 2542 crores for providing 24×7 electricity supply to rural houses as there was no provision of funding from the Centre for this scheme.
Pointing out that Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (PGCIL) was engaged in strengthening infrastructure of power at Diskit, Nubra, Phyang and surrounding areas of Leh district at the cost of Rs 1196 crores, the Jammu and Kashmir delegation noted that only Rs 341 crores have been released so far and sought remaining Rs 855 crores to give pace to the project and ensure its timely implementation.
The delegation disclosed that 102 villages in Jammu and Kashmir were without power while the Prime Minister has set deadline of Power for All by December 2018. It assured the Union Power Minister that 38 villages will be provided with electricity by December 2017 and 11 others by March 2018.
However, as far as remaining 53 villages were concerned, they required transmission lines as far as 64 kilometers and can be covered by solar poser only for which the State projected demand of Rs 67 crores. Work in some of the areas to meet the targets under Power for All will be executed by the Central companies.
Sources disclosed that the Union Power Minister agreed to consider all demands projected by Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh and assured that a high-level team of the Power Ministry would sit with Jammu and Kashmir officials before approval of the grants.
When contacted, Dr Nirmal Singh confirmed to the Excelsior that RK Singh has agreed to consider demand of Central funding projected by him and he was confident that work on all Centrally Sponsored and other Schemes would get pace to meet the deadlines.
RK Singh also asked Jammu and Kashmir Power Ministry to set up DISCOMS for power distribution in the State as his Ministry would come out with a legislation that after March 2019 the DISCOMS would be penalized for “unnecessary disruptions” in power. The J&K delegation assured the Centre that they have already mooted proposal to set up DISCOMS.
R K Singh said at the conference that most of the states have agreed on 24X7 power for all, 90 per cent pre-paid meters and direct benefit transfer (DBT) of subsidies for electricity consumers across the country.
“Our vision is that we want 24X7 power for all by March 2019. Now it will be a legal obligation. After March 2019, if there is any load shedding without any reason, there will be penalties except in case of technical issues or act of God,” Singh said.
The Minister said all the participant states have agreed to provide 24X7 power to all.
He further said there would be 100 per cent metering (of electricity supply) and 90 per cent of this would be pre- paid meters.
“We are doing away with the human interface totally in metering, billing and collection. The payment for electricity consumption will be through mobile phone. All states have agreed on this,” he said.
On the deadline for achieving the goal of 90 per cent pre-paid meters in the country, the Minister said there is no deadline.
“But we have to reduce losses by January 2019 to ensure 24X7 power for all by March 2019. It is agreed that the (distribution) losses would be reduced to below 15 per cent by January 2019,” he said.
Singh said the other issue that was discussed was cross subsidization, as some States have 19 slabs of tariff. The power tariff will be remodeled, according to the report presented by an expert committee today at the Conference.
He explained that the cross subsidy would not be more than 20 per cent (the difference between highest and lowest tariff).
Tariff policy provides that cross subsidy would be brought down to 20 per cent in the first phase. It will help in reduction of tariff for a section of consumers.
About the direct benefit transfer for consumers he said: “Any subsidy you want to give to any category of consumers, it has to go through DBT. That would be the law. All states agree on that.”
He also said after March 2019, the loss will be capped at 15 per cent for fixation of tariff.
“If there are losses of more than 15 per cent, you cannot set that (additional amount over the cap) off by (higher) tariff. The consumers should not be asked to pay for theft committed by others,” he added.