POWER PROBLEM: WHAT THE HOUSE COMMITTEE COULD NOT SEE

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

“Although Odisha is the first state to go for power sector reforms and is the only state where both transmission and distribution of electricity are privatized, yet, the achievements of the state availing uniform and qualitative power sector for a common man is not significant”, observes the Orissa Legislative Assembly Standing Committee formed to oversee the Department of Energy.

But it seems the House Committee is not aware of how the reform programme has been sabotaged.

In my column in Orissa’s mainstream broadsheet ‘Sambad’ I had exposed how payola had played a propellant role in Biju Patnaik’s decision to privatize power sector of Orissa, with specific stress on shenanigans involving AES and the foreign pack of advisors. In post Biju era, I had also exposed the rampant corruption, a part of which was being played by one Mahendra Kumar, the then Director, Commerce. Following the exposure, Mahendra Kumar had to go, but the anti-people activities of the new set-up went on, sufficiently as was being greased the relevant joints in the State secretariat.

Mr. Bishnu Das, Chairman of the Committee has not hesitated to transmit to the public that the Government should realize the futility of privatization and get rid of the private Distribution Companies (DISCOMs) in order to ward off anarchy in power sector. This idea may not stand the test on the matrix of Electricity Act, 2003. But there is no problem for the Standing Committee to probe and for the Government to act in the matter of loss caused to the State by way of subterfuge following privatization.

On 3rd of this month, AES has signed an MoU with Government of Chhatisgarh for setting up of a coal fired 1000 MW Project with an investment of Rs.5400 crores through AES India Pvt. Ltd. on Build, Own and Operate (BOO) basis. Upon operation, the proposed plant of AES will work as a Merchant Plant and would supply power to the power deficit States of the country.

In the light of observations of an astute power engineer, this is a death blow to Govt. of Orissa.

AES India holds 49% share in Ib Thermal Power Station of Orissa Power Generation Corporation along with management control since January 1999. It had earlier agreed to undertake installation of Unit-3 and 4 of ITPS at an estimated cost of Rs.1706 crore. By performing ‘Bhumi Puja’ for the purpose on 23rd August, 2004 at the request of AES India Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik tried to renew its credibility. Had he shown equal zeal for recovery of the dues claimed against AES, the GRIDCO could have gained a sum of Rs.645 crores. It is worth noting that AES India has already reaped the Dividend amount of Rs.449.22 crores by the FY 2004-05 from ITPS, whereas purchasing 51% of CESCO in September 1999, it had fled away on 27.08.2001, in the process, cheating GRIDCO of Rs.645 crores against which the later has lodged a claim on 08.02.2003. It is sad that the State Government does not show appropriate interest to defeat AES mischief.

This Company had earlier signed an M.O.U. with Govt. of Orissa and OSEB in 1992 for installation of 2×250 MW Thermal Plant at Ib Thermal Power Station. It has obtained all statutory clearances under First Track Power Project Scheme and concluded amended PPA with GRIDCO as successor to OSEB on 31.03.1997 for an investment of Rs.2369 crores. But this project has deliberately been kept dormant.

Look at it from any angle as you like, it would transpire that AES India is playing hide and seek with the people of Orissa. In such a situation a responsible and alert Government should have taken over the 49% share of OPGC from AES and should have assigned the Project to other developers showing Expression of Interest (EOI). But, by conducting ‘Bhumi Puja’, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has indicated that he can side with fraudulent players, happen what may to the simple people of Orissa.

The Standing Committee has legitimate scope to read this mischief. Let us hope against hope that it acts.

However, AES India is not by itself the entirety of the fraud that has affected Orissa’s power sector. A section of IAS officers and their cronies in sensitive places of administration have forced Orissa into a condition of recurring loss, in order only keep alive a scope for AES to benefit from power crisis. Let us go to the point.

In 1997, NTPC requested GRIDCO to avail 700 MW power at the rate of 35% of 2000 MW from their Talcher Super Thermal Power Project Stage-II (TSTPS Stage-II) at Kaniha near Talcher.

Senior IAS officer M.Y.Rao was then the CMD of GRIDCO. He constituted a committee comprising the aforesaid Mahendra Kumar, the then Director (Commercial), Sri Rama Ballav Mishra, the then Director (Finance) and Sri B.C. Jena, the then Director (Transmission and Distribution) of GRIDCO, who is presently a Member of Orissa Electricity Regulatory Commission, to decide whether GRIDCO should avail this Power.

This Committee decided not to avail the 700 MW power offered by NTPC under the plea that the exact Tariff and exact Schedule date of completion of NTPC Units were not available.

Whether the plea was cooked up keeping in mind the interest of Private Developers like AES and KPCL etc. or not can be ascertained by a body like the Standing Committee of the Assembly.

But, it needs no specialization to understand that the above recommendation of the Committee debarred Orissa from gaining from the NTPC offer.

As the recommendation was adopted by Rao, GRIDCO had to intimate NTPC that it was not to avail 700 MW Power from TSTPS Stage-II. Consequent upon this, NTPC allotted this 35% (700 MW) power to Southern Region constituents like Andhra, Tamilnadu, Karnatak etc.on the premise of Infirm power at the rate of 50 Paisa/KWh and Commercial power at the rate of 160 P/KWh.

Date wise all the four Units of TSTPS Stage-II beginning from Unit-III entered into commercial operation with effect from 01 Aug 2003, 01 March 2004, 01 November 2004 and 01 Aug.2005 respectively.

It means, due to the suicidal recommendation of the Committee, Orissa lost procurement of power to the tune of 2453 MU (500 MW x 0.8 x 0.35 x 8.76 x 2) during 2003-05 at the cost of 50 P/KWh. If it would have traded the same infirm power, it would have done so at a prevailing market rate of 250 P/KWh. Money wise, it would have given a gain worth Rs.490 Crores to GRIDCO. Similarly, after commercial operation, Orissa would have gained 300 Paise on each Unit (Trading value 460 P/Unit / Cost of generation 160 P./Unit).

A mere mathematical calculation (700×0.8×8.76×3) suffices to say that the financial loss to Orissa on account of the recommendation of the Committee constituted by Rao and the cold calculated decision by the two IAS officers at the helm of affairs, one at GRIDCO and the other in the department of energy in Orissa’s Secretariat rejecting the offer of NTPC is not less than Rs.1470 Crores per annum.

The loss to our State is not limited to the above evidence. The lackadaisical manner in which the State is now run has been playing havoc with the power sector.

It is the policy of Govt. of India that the home State should get 12% free Hydel power from the Projects undertaken by Central Government Power Companies like NHPC, NEEPCO etc. Similarly, 10% of thermal power is given as home State quota from all NTPC Stations located in that State.

Orissa is in such hands that the Government is not demanding or claiming the legitimate share of 10% of generated power as Home State Quota from TSTPS Stage-II which is located in Orissa and thereby is loosing Rs.420 Crores over 200 MW annually (calculated at 200×0.8×8.76×3) considering the prevalent trading price of 460 P/Unit.

Standing Committee of the Assembly could not see this scenario.

But it would be somewhat rectifying the mistake if the Assembly, while taking up energy budget, pays attention to the precarious position of power that is now menacingly threatening Orissa.

Although endowed with 23% of the Country’s power grade coal and 10% of annual surface water flow, Orissa will fall far short of the minimum requirement of power in 2007. I have already shown reasons to say that it portends a power-famine from the year 2009 onwards.

If the Assembly can compel the Government to constitute a Task Force in the pattern of War Council functioning during war time to go for and start immediately 3 to 4 Super and Mega Thermal Power Projects and at least one Ultra Mega Thermal Project (4000 MW), the dark days could be avoided.

But can it? Are there enough members in the treasury bench to drag out their Government from its bureaucratic cocoon into the world of activities, in interest of the people?

I leave the answer to whosoever watches the Assembly when energy demand is taken up.

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QUALITY EDUCATION: A BIRD’S EYE VIEW

By Dr. Amiya Kumar Mohanty

The quality of education is of supreme importance to any civilization, which wishes to survive through passage of time. The history of education from time immemorial reflects a continuous conflict between those who want to make education the privilege of the few and those who endeavor to relieve it from the prison of caste, community, religion and economy. The ‘quality education for all’ has always remained an ideal and a dream and has always been the victim of historical conflict between mass and class education.

Historical development-a continuity

There is a general observation that the development of education in society runs parallel to the socio-economic structure and evolution of that society. The educational development is ultimately determined by the economic and political needs of society and, in a class divided society, by the needs of dominant classes in society.

(a)Pre-British era:

There has been nothing like an educational evolution in India known to have taken place during the historic period excepting the addition of a few new subjects to the curriculum as a result of foreign contacts in later periods. The structure of education of any epoch reflects the social, political, economic and religious ideas current in that period. Early India knew no strict class organization, but the chains of caste were gradually forged and came to have nearly universal validity. As a result of which education in ancient India was caste and community oriented and so mostly vocational. This functional stratification of society was an important phase of growing civilization and with it came differentiation of education. The shudras continued their life through service to other castes and for them education had no meaning. The objective of majority of people was not to have the liberal education comprising of the study of arts and sciences, but to learn certain occupational skill, on the basis of caste and community to which he was born. The priestly caste busy with scriptural invention was intent upon reading the past and professing the future, supported by the labor of one class and protected by the arms of another, it had no obvious and immediate need for physical exertion and training save as some dance and other exercises of past ages might continue to be credited with religious significance.

Naturally such an elite came to think of education as preeminently mental and moral and frequently exhibited an ascetic unconcern for physical wellbeing and excellence. In a society resting on varnashramadharma each family became a school of its own and the idea of public instruction had never attracted the attention of the rulers. Education became the concern of the community and the state only played the role of an aiding agency through grants of lands and villages, and by way of momentary concession, such as remission of taxes etc to teachers and scholars who through their personal efforts tried their best to spread education. The class basis of education is seen clearly in the story of Ekalavya, student from the menial class, who had to pay with his thumb for having learnt the art of archery. The prescription of Manu that molten lead should be poured into the ears of the shudras who happens to hear recitation of the holy scripture is another example to show that our ancestors were aware of the fact that education could outback on the stability of the social system. Only such type of education was to be encouraged by the dominant classes as could enhance the stability of the system and the system envisaged was an inevitable one.

(b)British era

The British also formulated education policy as found in Maculay’s system and other commissions’ report to cater to the needs of colonialism. They did not look into the broadening of base of education and no attempt was made for mass education. State did not own up the responsibility of education and as in the past remained satisfied only with the role of an aiding agency. Democratic values have been tempered to suit the needs of the ruling class. As a result the ruling elite succeeded in creating a conducive infrastructure for commercialization and communalization of education. In the past, there has been many attempts to free education from the clutches of caste, community and religion, but unfortunately these movements for democratization of education did not have powerful momentum to counter the forces of feudalism and capitalism. Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar, Jotiba Phule, Sabitribai Phule, Sayed Ahmed Khan, Gopalkrishna Gokhle, B.R.Ambedkar and above all, Mahatma Gandhi tried their best to expand base of education and to make it available to the poorest of the poor. However, they had a transitory impact to reverse the general trend of history.

(c)Post-British era: short-lived optimism

The history of educational development in India in the 1st phase (1947-86) can best be described as an era of short-lived optimism. It was through more than a century of movement that we came to accept the idea of a secular, scientific and democratic system for our people. Thus, it was he reflection of this long struggle when in the Constituent Assembly in 1950, article 45 was incorporated in our Constitution where the State took the solemn oath to endeavor to provide within a period of 10 years from the commencement of the Constitution for a free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of 14 years. Similarly Article 39 of the Constitution stated: “The health and strength of workers, men and women and the tender aged children are not abused” and that “Citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or their strength”. The educational commissions formed during this period also recommended many positive measures keeping in tune with the spirit of time. The post-independence honeymoon to reverse the general trend of history became short-lived. The capitalist forces saw great danger to their interest and the new education policy of 1886 formally marked the end of democratization of educational system and extensions of quality education for all. The impact of new economic policy of liberalization, globalization and privatization made education once again the privilege of the few. A new elitist pattern under the impact of market force immerged which provided shattering blow to the objective of quality education for all. With the economy being geared more and more, under pressure of multinationals, to the slogan of producing for export, the rulers saw the need of high level sophisticated technology in all spheres of production. Impact of high level computer and other kinds of automation implied the production of a skilled manpower to operate these. Just as Macaulay visualized producing baboos, the authors of present education policy saw the need for limited quality of computer boys. The constitutional obligation for providing free and compulsory education up to the age of 14 to all by 1960 under Art.45 was not fulfilled. It led to the stagnation f growth and inequalities of great magnitude.

Another facet of present educational system which defies the spirit of equality enshrined in the Indian Constitution is the dual system of schooling: government and government-aided schools on the one side and the convent/ public/ model/ navodaya / adarsha schools on the other. The concept of autonomous colleges is also in the direction of an elitist pattern of education. Dualism in structure has crated dualism in value system. It not only leads to urban-rural, rich-poor divide but also curriculum of some of these institutions foster communalism. Further education has today become highly commercialized. The private educational institutions in the country are mostly commercial centers financed by the government run for the private gain of the few, who own them very often arbitrarily and without accountability either to the government which pays, or to the society on whose munificent donations they were started in the first place. The agenda note published in the conference of education ministers by the present NDA government and the educational and cultural policy pursued by the present government of the center has provided new dimensions to the already plagued education system.

Role of Teachers’ organization

Educational system today is in deep crisis. It is contaminated by the germs of globalization, privatization, commercialization and communalisation of the system. The present educational policy has not enabled women, the village folks, the backward classes and the minorities to acquire equality in the society, nor has it enabled people t secure employment. This present policy has reinforced disparities in society and led to the growing gap between the rich and the poor, the urban and the rural populace and privately run public schools and government schools. Moreover, the privatization of education would promote unrest amongst students in particular and academic community in general. As in the case of Egypt and Algeria, the ills of privatization led to socio-economic, religious problems that have deepened and become more complex. Besides privatization of education would distort planned strategy of development, and tend to push the system of education towards a state of chaos. The countrywide policy of liberalization followed by growing communal distortion, fee hike, capitation fees and donations had deprived the poorer section of the society at large of a proper and quality education. Education has become domain of the rich, for the rich and by the rich.

The focus on the role of teachers’ organizations in national development is significant. The teachers and teachers’ organizations should try their best to reverse the trends of history and to lead the progressive forces to make education the rights of all rather than the privilege of the few. They should devote all their energy to relieve education from the clutches of casteist and fundamentalist forces. The teachers’ organization should rise above economism and play a pivotal role to unite all those forces, which are committed to national development.

( The author is presently senior faculty in the department of History at S.B.Women’s College Cuttack and National Vice-President of All India Federation of University and College Teachers Organisation)