Monday, March 13, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Privatisation to push up power rates

THE Prime Minister, while inaugurating the Power Ministers’ meeting recently rightly observed that subsidies were not a solution to the problem as they did not work beyond a point, and rather affected the performance of the power sector. But privatisation of the power sector is also no solution.

Unquestionably, power plays a major role in the economic development of the country. Till date the government used to ensure the supply of electricity that is affordable and reliable to maintain modern ways of living.

It is not understood why there is such a rush to unbundle the SEBs when the efficacy of the alternative is yet to be proved. The question of disintegration of vertically integrated utilities and restructuring of the power industry is being debated all over the world, including the USA and Canada.


  France has rejected the World Bank model of unbundling the industry. The advice of the World Bank has been accepted and implemented in Orissa. This has resulted in the escalation of power supply rates and the multiplicity of organisations, increasing the administrative costs and lowering the overall efficiency of the power system. The Orissa model cannot be taken as a panacea for the ills of the SEBs.

What the World Bank report says, “When the tariff structure is charged to reflect the economic cost of production, higher prices for electricity in the residential and agriculture sectors shall dampen demand”, will not this result in a situation when the country will have to approach the USA and other countries for foodgrains under schemes like PL 480?

The public is not being informed about the effects of the ill-conceived privatisation of the power sector. The cost of energy from new power projects may exceed Rs 10 per unit to consumers. The government is deliberately not providing any indication of the cost per unit to avoid any backlash from the public. The lack of transparency has been a serious drawback in the reforms. The government is doing its best to keep people in the dark about the real situation in the power sector.

A long-term perspective based on indigenous expertise and experience should be central to any restructuring of the SEBs. The major thrust immediately required is tarrif rationalisation and improvement in the efficiency of the SEBs. All the SEBs are sick and need revival, and not the privatisation of the power sector.


A condemnable act

The stopping and stoning of the Lahore-bound Pakistan Tourism Corporation bus at Chachrari village near Phagwara by activisets of the Punjab Shiv Sena was a highly condemnable act (“Saffron roadblock”, editorial, March 6). Resentment against the Pak-supported terrorism could be expressed in some other way, such as by organising rallies, instead of harassing the passengers of the bus. Were they responsible for the belligerent gestures of Pakistan? A passenger rightly remarked that such incidents did not serve the interest of either country.

Shiv Sena leaders have threatened to launch a statewide agitation if the bus service between India and Pakistan is not stopped by the end of March.

But diplomacy was a remarkable gesture of goodwill shown by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to promote friendly relations with Pakistan despite its hostile attitude and he received appreciation for the healthy attitude at the international level.

After their Blair House meeting US President Bill Clinton clearly exhorted the then Pakistan Premier, Mr Nawaz Sharif, to withdraw troops from Kargil and resume the diplomatic talks set in motion by Mr Vajpayee during this historic Delhi-Lahore bus ride.

There is no doubt that this bus service symbolises India’s great endeavour to strengthen people-to-people contacts between the two countries. The road link is convenient for the common people on both sides of the border. If it is discontinued, the innocent people who avail themselves of the bus facility to visit their relatives in India and Pakistan will be the worst sufferers.

Instead of Pakistan threatening to launch an agitation against the Delhi-Lahore bus service, the ebullient activists of the Punjab Shiv Sena should go to Kashmir and liquidate the Pak-trained terrorists who are shedding innocent blood in the valley.



Injustice to the electorate

This is with reference to the writ-up “Victory by default” by Mr Jatinder Sharma (March 4). He has unduly attributed the caste factor to the victory of the INLD. By branding the INLD supremo, Mr Om Prakash Chautala, as the leader of a particular caste, reporter has done injustice to the electorate of the state, who most certainly crossed all caste barriers to throw their lot behind the INLD which has emerged not only as the choice of farmers but also the people from all walks of life.

There was no question of cashing in on the Vajpayee factor during the Lok Sabha poll because probably the popularity of the INLD supremo was at its peak.

Loharu (Bhiwani)

Politicisation of education

The write-up “GND varsity volunteers for NAAC assessment”, (Education Tribune, March 7) may cause concern among educational circles as it is fraught with serious political consequences.

When the country is so much politically charged that nothing is decided on merit the UGC will be placing the institutions of higher learning at the whims of politically-oriented people who will grant accreditation to these institutions merely on ideological considerations.

It has been clearly experienced in Haryana that when a BJP man (Mr Ram Bilas Sharma) was the Education Minister, various schools run by RSS people through Vidya Bharati were granted recognition without verifying their suitability. These schools are being run by RSS-whole timers.

These schools are being run in shabby buildings; most of them do not have a properly qualified staff fulfilling the prescribed qualifications, nor are they paying salary to the staff according to the norms. Yet they received recognition.

Similar is going to be the fate of the institutions of higher learning if the UGC does not first evolve objective criteria for proper assessment and for appointing members of accreditation committees if it wants to save education from politicisation.

Ladwa (Kurukshetra)


Deepa Mehta has already experienced three elements of Indian life — Earth, Fire and Water. What next?

Answer: Air and finally Nirvana.



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