Jharkhand will become a power-surplus state in the next five years, says Deputy Chief Minister and Power Minister Raghubar Das, though government officials are sceptical.
"Our agenda is to make Jharkhand a self-sufficient state in three years and power surplus in the next five years," Das told IANS in an interview.
"We will streamline the existing two power plants and set up more plants. The new plants could be set up with help of the private sector," he added.
"If the farmers get electricity, they can irrigate their land and small-scale industries can also be promoted in rural areas."
Currently, only 12 percent of land in Jharkhand is irrigated, which produces just half the food grains it needs.
Government officials are not as optimistic as their minister. And there’s good reason: Jharkhand generated 450 MW in November 2000, only to see it fall to 300 to 350 MW now.
The state, as a result, has to spend "hundreds of crores" of rupees to purchase electricity from different agencies and sell it at subsidised rates, the officials said on condition of anonymity.
Jharkhand needs 1,320 MW but its two power plants — Patratu Thermal Power Station (PTPS) and Tenughat Vidyut Nigam Ltd (TNVL) — produce 150 MW and 200 MW respectively.
The state sources 400 MW from the Damodar Valley Corporation and 225 MW from the National Thermal Power Corp at Rs.3 per unit and sells it at a subsidised rate of Rs.1.75 per unit.
Worse, it is burdened with a 56 percent loss of power during transmission and distribution against the national average of 22 percent.
Yet, Das is confident the state will become power-surplus in the next five years.
"Jharkhand fulfils all criteria. There is enough coal, water and required infrastructure to generate power."
Maintaining that the government would strive to make the state’s two power plants fully functional over the next three years, Das said: "If all the units of PTPS and TVNL become operational, Jharkhand will get 1,500 MW of power."
To bolster his argument, he added: "We are releasing Rs.196 crore to streamline the power generation of TVNL."
The deputy chief minister also said rural electrification would be expedited. At present, 19,000 of Jharkhand’s 32,000 villages are connected to the electricity grid.
(Nityanand Shukla can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
By Nityanand Shukla