A cloud over power reforms

NEW DELHI, JUNE 1. Suddenly nothing seems to be going the Delhi Government's way on the power reforms front. The friction between the Government and the private power distribution companies in the Capital has increased sharply. The blame game is on between the distribution companies and the Government-controlled Delhi Transco and the Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) has for some reason hit a roadblock.

All these developments are threatening to derail power reforms and have once again raised questions about the success of the privatisation process in the Capital. Worried over the situation, the Government has decided to step in and set things right. The Chief Minister, Sheila Dikshit, and the Power Minister, Haroon Yusuf, have decided to personally ensure proper monitoring over the next few months. However, what has come as a surprise to the Government is the role of certain bureaucrats in Transco and Genco who are trying to stall implementation of the privatisation programme. It is learnt that Ms. Dikshit and Mr. Yusuf have already expressed their strong displeasure over the role of certain bureaucrats who are understood to have joined hands with certain "vested interests" to embarrass the Delhi Government.

The Government is particularly unhappy over the role of certain bureaucrats who instead of carrying the reforms process forward have been trying to take it in the reverse direction. In fact, many within the Department see it as a result of rivalry between these bureaucrats and the now retired Principal Secretary (Power Department), Jagdish Sagar.

This has not only increased the friction between the private power companies and the Delhi Government, but has also put a question mark over the fate of hundreds of employees who had opted for the Voluntary Retirement Scheme. It is learnt that some bureaucrats have raised some objections to the manner in which the entire VRS scheme was handled and are now trying to create hurdles by provoking the employees to seek redressal of their grievances through the court. "It is a very unfortunate situation. These things can certainly be worked out by sitting across the table with a positive mindset. But certain bureaucrats in Transco and Genco are creating hurdles," a senior Government official remarked.

The Delhi Government had raised the objection that the private companies had not taken their approval for the VRS scheme and also there was no provision for such a scheme. However, Genco also had floated a similar scheme and did not take any formal approval despite the fact that there was no provision for it in the system.

On the other hand, Transco has been blaming the private distribution companies for all the woes and escaping responsibility in the process. Interestingly, according to the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC), Transco had failed to utilise its funds meant for systemic improvements. Of the Rs. 340 crores approved by DERC, only Rs. 85 crores were utilised by Transco for this system upgradation work that comes to around 25 per cent. On the other hand, BSES Rajdhani was allocated Rs. 426 crores and spent only Rs. 82 crores. Similarly, BSES Yamuna was allocated Rs. 335 crores and spent only 64 crores. However, North Delhi Power Limited was allocated Rs. 287 crores and it overshot the fund utilisation spending Rs. 288 crores.