Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Jan 20:
The decision of the Odisha government to move the Supreme Court challenging the recent Appellate Tribunal on Electricity (ATE) order on power tariff hike may not cut much ice with the apex court since it had not contested the decision in the tribunal, informed sources in the power sector say.
‘‘The state Energy department is contemplating challenging the ATE order in apex court in the third week of January. However, it is unclear if the court would even admit the petition. As the state government did not put its view on the proposed tariff revision by Odisha Electricity Regulatory Commission (OERC) before the tribunal, there is serious doubt whether the former’s case would be admitted in the court. If the case is admitted, there is no clarity whether the court would put a stay on the decision,’’ trade union leader Ramesh Satpathy said.
Notably, the board of directors of the three distribution companies managed by Reliance Energy Limited (REL) – Nesco, Wesco and Southco – have four members each nominated by the state government. None of them challenged REL’s decision to move the tribunal against the OERC order.
On May 13, 2013, OERC had warned REL that if no discernible improvement in distribution losses and customer service is noticed by the September end, the commission would take suitable action to cancel their licences. Besides, it had asked the discoms to renew the shareholders’ agreement and service the NTPC bonds worth Rs 400 crore by the deadline. However, no visible improvement has taken place in the distribution losses till date. Despite that, the government hasn’t taken any action against the company, activists said.
As the recent order of the ATE has triggered panic about a possible steep power tariff hike, the state government is contemplating to file petition in the Supreme Court to hoodwink people, Satpathy alleged.
As per a rough estimate, in the event of ATE order being implemented, the tariff could go as high as Rs 10 per unit and would impose a burden of around Rs 5,000 crore on around 55 lakh consumers in the state.
It may be mentioned that the state government has appointed GRIDCO CMD, Director (Finance), and Director (Commercial) to the company’s Board of Management to oversee the operations and safeguard the interests of consumers. Now, with the proposed power tariff hike, the trade union leaders have raised questions on whose interests these officials are protecting.
On May 6, 2009, OERC had held that unless the power infrastructure is upgraded and reinforced, it will collapse. As part of the power sector reforms, the state government had asked for repair of supply cables and transformers. However, the discoms could not care less.
Citing huge losses owing to transmission and distribution loss, the discoms had made a strong case for a hike in power tariff in the tribunal.
‘‘I call upon the political parties in the state to unite against the proposed power hike. As the three distribution companies are not able to manage properly, the state government should cancel their licenses and take over the power distribution system,” Secretary of National Institute of Indian Labour, Ramesh Satpathy urged.
Among others, Jatindra Kumar Ray, Bhaskar Maharana, Hemanta Das, Balaram Swain, Prashanta Kumar Mohapatra, Bhubaneswar Rao and Krushna Chandra Panda were present on the occasion.