KERALA

Government sets goal for total rural electrification

Special Correspondent

Ninety per cent of the project cost to come as Central grant

First instalment, of Rs.221 crore, to be given this yearPriority power connections to the weaker sections

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The State plans to achieve total rural electrification during the term of this Government, utilising Central assistance under the Rajiv Gandhi Gramin Vydhyuthi Yojana (RGGVY), according to the Electricity Minister's office.

The Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) signed an agreement with the Rural Electrification Corporation (REC) in New Delhi on Thursday for this Rs.438-crore project.

Central assistance for the project will be routed through the REC.

The State Government and the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) are also signatories to the agreement.

The NTPC is the agency implementing the project. The State Government would give priority to giving electricity connections to the weaker sections and those belonging to the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.

The Government hopes to electrify all homes of people belonging to these sections within the next two years.

Ninety per cent of the cost of this project will come as grant from the Union Government and the remaining 10 per cent as loan.

Tenders floated

Negotiations for getting the assistance had begun during the tenure of the previous Government. The KSEB had also floated tenders for awarding the works, but the lowest bids exceeded the approved estimates by more than 60 per cent.

Electricity Minister A.K. Balan had discussed the issue twice with Union Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde.

The Union Government subsequently permitted the State Government to have the estimates revised by the KSEB and rope in NTPC as the agency executing the project.

The Union Minister also gave an assurance that the additional financial burden for implementing the project would not fall on the KSEB or the State Government, the Electricity Minister's office said.

The Union Government will give Rs.221 crore, the first instalment of assistance for the project, this year itself.

The RGGVY envisages entrusting the responsibility of distribution of electricity under this project to franchisees, including private agencies.

The Minister's office said, as a matter of policy, the Government would avoid involving private franchisees in the power distribution business. The idea is to entrust the responsibility the local self-government institutions.

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