TAMIL NADU

We won't back out of reforms, says Jayalalithaa

CHENNAI OCT. 3. While blaming the DMK Government for agreeing to reforms in the power sector, the Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, today said the State Government could not back out at this stage.

"I would like to categorically state that the predicament of having to submit the tariff revision proposal to the State Electricity Regulatory Commission by the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board has arisen due to the commitment made by the previous regime and at this stage the Government of Tamil Nadu cannot back out and derail the process of reforms agreed to earlier,'' she said in a statement.

The DMK Government, which formed the SERC in 1999, availed itself of assistance from the Government of India under the Accelerated Power Development Programme in March 2001, which required submission of a tariff revision proposal before September 30, 2002, and metering of all consumers by December 31, 2003.

Reiterating that the State Government had nothing to do with the tariff revision, Ms. Jayalalithaa said the scrapping of free power supply for farm pump-sets was wholly within the jurisdiction of the SERC.

At the same time, Tamil Nadu would, in due course, make its submissions before the SERC, which would take them into account before deciding on the issue.

The SERC would set in motion an elaborate consultation process holding sittings, at which all consumer groups could make their representations. Further, the SERC would make its own analysis of the TNEB's operational performance, asset structure, liabilities and scope for reducing losses, and reach a specific conclusion on its net revenue requirements. Thereafter, it would give its findings on the tariffs, which would be allowed. The process would take some time, she added.

The SERC was constituted under a Central law and it operated as an independent statutory body. "The State Government has no power over its functioning,'' she said.

The TNEB proposal before the SERC was only the first step. If left unattended, the TNEB would be financially crippled. The SREC, guided by the Central law, would examine details of consumer categories and the levy of tariffs.

"The TNEB can only make a proposal; it is for the SERC to adjudicate on it. The TNEB and the State Government will have to abide by the findings of the SERC,'' she said.

Meanwhile, the Southern India Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the TNEB's proposal to hike the tariff came within one year of the last revision.

In a communication to the SERC Chairman, the chamber sought three months time from October 7, date of availability of the document, to present its views, as the proposal had to be studied in the light of the present economic scenario and its implications.

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