Threatening strict action against those indulging in theft of electricity, Power Minister Piyush Goyal Thursday said it is “industries” as well as “big people” and not the poor who are involved in the pilferage.
“Bribes are offered to linesmen and department officials, and may be politicians are also involved in it,” Goyal said at the 2-day conference of power ministers of states and Union territories.
He called for taking action against those involved in power theft saying it will benefit the common man.
He said: “I would like to mention that this is not the issue concerning the poor people. Don’t think that you will be politically affected if you take action against the power theft. Poor persons are not involved in the theft. Farmers don’t do it because they get it cheap or free power.
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“Maximum theft is in the field of industries and by big people. I feel there is a political benefit in stopping the theft because by doing that you will be able to reduce the electricity bill of the common man.”
He added: “If you do your job honestly and if you are able to convey to people that what you are doing is for their benefit, then I can assure you that politically there is a great benefit in curbing power theft.”
The Union minister also hailed the efforts of Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his stint as Gujarat Chief Minister in converting the loss making power sector into a profit yielding one.
“I have learnt this from Gujarat. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat, in the first year itself he began a crackdown on electricity theft. This was in the year 2002 and Modi faced criticism,” he said.
“Around one lakh FIRs were filed and even BJP workers were put behind bars. But due to that step, Modi managed to improve the power scenario in the state,” Goyal stated. “The electricity companies in Gujarat were suffering losses of Rs 2,500 crore when Modiji became Chief Minister 14 years ago. Within a short span he was able to convert that loss into a profit, probably in two or three years without increasing power tariff,” the minister said.
“Over the years, the lowest increase in tariff has been in Gujarat and yet it is in profit, making it a self sustaining power sector,” he added.
Goyal further said: “I have no doubt in my minds that in next 2-3 years we can achieve the dream of 24X7 affordable, sustainable, environment friendly power for all, not by 2022 when India completes 75 years of independence which we had originally targeted, but by 2019, a good three years ahead of schedule.”
Making a difference to the lives of poor, rural people and farmers is important in achieving our goal of 24X7 power for all industry, commerce, households, farmers- in the country by the year 2019, he said.
“It is easy if we (centre and states) work in the spirit of participation and cooperation. We learn from experiences of states and I am happy that this conference has developed into a good platform for exchange of ideas and understand each other’s problems.”
Laying a lot of emphasis on the North Eastern states Goyal said: “Unless we develop the East and north eastern states we will not be able to develop India.”
Commenting on the common pool purchase policy for larger equipments such as transformers, cables he hoped his ministry will receive help from states.
“If some states feel they can do better in purchasing of equipment and machinery they are welcome however his Ministry is of the view that the centralised system with a common procurement committee is better.”
He expressed happiness that two states Karnataka and Goa are signing the UDAY scheme agreement on Thursday.
Reacting to the agenda items for the conference Goyal said that hydro and wind energy has been neglected areas and it is important to get them on track with long term plans for growth in the deliberations.
Ministers from 19 states and Secretaries and officials from as many as 27 states are attending the conference.
Coal Secretary Anil Swarup said that from a shortage situation sometime back, his ministry is now facing a situation where they have coal but there are not many takers for the 550 MT coal stock.
He appealed to the generating companies in the states to stop importing coal and said the matter would be discussed at the conference.
He said Coal India Ltd has set up processes for auction of coal to public and private entities and a dispute resolution mechanism has also been set up in his ministry wherein disputes between states can also be resolved.
New and Renewable Energy Secretary Upendra Tripathy underlined the importance of differential pricing especially for the poor and underprivileged class.