The new power minister, in an interview with Kavita Chowdhury, talks about the challenges before him and how he intends to address those. Edited excerpts:
You have taken charge of the power ministry at a time when the country has seen the worst power crises in recent times. What are the immediate challenges before you?
Power is a very crucial sector, as it fuels growth; one per cent increase in power generation leads to one per cent increase in gross domestic product. For an inclusive economy like India, the power sector needs to keep pace with the industry’s growing demand.
What happened yesterday was the first such case since 2001. As soon I took over, I promised power supply would be restored at the earliest. And, now the power situation has stabilised 100 per cent. After all, we have the world’s best and largest power grid.
A committee has been constituted to probe the breakdown, and it would give its report in 15 days. Today, I held a meeting with this committee; it is looking into the causes and remedies. It would also ensure the stabilisation is sustained. With complete confidence, I state such things will not recur.
Your taking over seems to have been a case of ‘bad timing’, coinciding as it did with banner headlines screaming ‘world’s worst-ever power crisis’.
In these matters, we have no choice. But it can be considered an opportunity for me to prove myself.
Overdrawal of power by the neighbouring states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab has been cited as the reason behind the breakdown.
The state governments and the Centre have to take steps to ensure this. The system has to work complementarily; this kind of debate--- state versus state or Centre versus state---should not be encouraged.
State governments and political parties have been doling out free power to the agricultural sector to win over electoral vote banks. Do you think it is time to put an end to this?
Why do you say that? Free power in the agriculture sector benefits agriculture. But it is true that a minimum rate would have to be paid by each state; resources for that have to be mobilised somehow. Electricity boards can’t live on borrowings. They can’t be debt-ridden.
Currently, 26 per cent of the losses are due to those arising from transmission and distribution, power thefts, etc. If this is reduced to 10 per cent, we would save that much power. All electricity boards are in debt. This can’t continue.