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Agra first town in UP to plug into private power supply

After much delay,Torrent Power Limited is set to take over power distribution and bill collection in Agra from state-owned Pashchimanchal Power Corporation on April 1.

After much delay,Torrent Power Limited is set to take over power distribution and bill collection in Agra from state-owned Pashchimanchal Power Corporation on April 1.

This will be the Mayawati government’s first success in power reform — next in line is privatisation of power distribution in Kanpur. There,too,Torrent is the successful bidder.

Torrent,which handles power distribution in Ahmedabad,Surat,Bhiwandi and parts of Kolkata and Mumbai,will invest over Rs 700 crore to upgrade the power distribution network in the two cities over the next five years. This is expected to improve services and drastically cut power theft.

Against the national average of 30% aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses — commonly known as line losses but actually theft — line losses in Kanpur in 2008-09 were as high as 48% and in Agra,40%.

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Employees,opposed to privatisation,have called the deal a “sell-out” and threatened a strike. “The call for work boycott given by the Power Employees Joint Action Committee has evoked 100 per cent response and by Thursday,employees are likely to proceed on indefinite strike,” claimed Shailendra Dube,committee convener who recently retired as Chief Engineer of UP Power Corporation Limited (UPPCL). Navneet Sehgal,Chairman and Managing Director of UPPCL,said the award to Torrent was through open bidding in a transparent manner. “This is in the best interest of power consumers,it will cut down line losses and augment revenue recovery,” he said.

This comes at a time when UPPCL’s accumulated losses amount to over Rs 37,000 crore by the end of March 2009.

The process of power reform in the state began on January 14,2000,when the monolith UP State Electricity Board (UPSEB) was unbundled into three independent companies for distribution,generation and transmission: UPPCL,UP Thermal Power Generation Corporation Ltd and UP Transmission Corporation. The state government wrote off accumulated loans of the power utility to the tune of Rs 20,000 crore.

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But this didn’t make much of a difference since the new entities were still government-owned and plagued by the same work culture and inefficiency.

In November 2008,however,the government took the crucial decision of handing over power distribution in nine cities to private companies. Torrent won bids for Agra and Kanpur.

There has been no response so far for the other seven: Bareilly,Gorakhpur,Varanasi,Allahabad,Moradabad,Meerut and Aligarh.

First published on: 01-04-2010 at 02:34 IST
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