New Delhi:The Planning Commission has raised concerns about the delays in the government’s ambitious energy schemes—Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY) and the re-structured Accelerated Power Development and Reform Programme (R-APDRP).
The RGGVY scheme is for providing electricity to villages and connecting poor households across the country. R-APDRP is meant to upgrade distribution systems, minimize transmission and distribution losses, improve metering and assign responsibility for the realization of user charges.
“We are concerned about the delays,” said B.K. Chaturvedi, member of the apex planning body.
These concerns come in the backdrop of a bailout plan for the beleaguered state electricity distribution companies, or discoms, in the form of a restructuring of short-term loans as they were struggling to raise working capital. Chaturvedi had suggested this strategy.
Average aggregate technical and commercial losses due to theft and transmission and billing losses are estimated at around 27%.
The previous United Progressive Alliance government launched the APDRP scheme in 2002-03 to reduce the losses to 15% by the end of 2007. Even as the programme was ineffective in reducing losses, the government went ahead with a re-structured APDRP in 2008 with a Rs.51,577-crore corpus to be implemented in two parts.
Under the first part, an information technology (IT) system is to be set up for collecting accurate baseline data, and the second part is meant to strengthen the distribution system. The first part was to be completed within three years of its sanction, but there have been delays in appointing IT consultants in some states.
“The technical capacity in the country is constrained to absorb IT orders for R-APDRP. Even then IT orders have been placed to the tune of around Rs.6,000 crore under the first part,” said Chaturvedi.
RGGVY, part of India’s ambitious Bharat Nirman project to develop rural infrastructure, aimed to provide electricity connections to 23 million poor households in 118,000 villages by 2009.
The deadline was extended to March 2012 and the target amended to 112,795 villages and 27.5 million poor households.
While work had been completed in 104,496 villages as on 31 March, according to the Planning Commission, a significant number of the villages are not yet energized—which means power has not started flowing through the grid to the villages.
About 19.4 million poor households have been provided free connection.
Apart from such delays, electricity available in the villages is only for around six hours as poor finances of state electricity boards act as disincentives to provide power. Also, delays in issuance of electricity bills lead to high outstanding dues.
While Chaturvedi admitted that “distribution utilities are not finding it attractive to provide electricity,” he said that delays in issuance of electricity bills leading to households’ inability to pay was “partly true”.
“Some of these are petty excuses. We are concerned about RGGVY and have asked the states to separate the feeders (separate electricity feeds for farmers and non-farmers). Some states are doing it,” he said.
Cumulative losses of the distribution utilities increased from Rs.1.22 trillion in 2009-10 to Rs.1.9 trillion by March 2011.