House deliberates on losses in state power sector

Correspondent KOHIMA, FEB 18 (NPN) | Publish Date: 2/18/2021 1:03:08 PM IST
Advisor power, Tovihoto Ayemi, Thursday informed the House that the department of power had taken several initiatives to improve meter reading, billing, and collection to improve electricity revenue, but asserted that there were much more challenges and areas for improvement in the electricity revenue sector.
Participating in the discussion on improving power revenue on the fourth day of the ongoing assembly session, Ayemi presented some of the main issues pertaining to revenue performance and redressal.
He said that there was acute shortage of meter readers besides low work culture. Ayemi revealed that while billing, due to improper meter reading a vast number of consumer bills were generated as average and minimum bills as the department was supposed to generate electricity bills every month. 
He said this resulted in meter bills becoming huge and inviting complaints and resentment from consumers and leading to poor collection of revenue. He also said many rich people were also wilfully not paying electricity bills that also encouraged all kinds of vices. The Advisor also said that communitisation of power was another cause for poor revenue collection and for which the Power department has proposed some interim measures to improve metering, billing and collection. 
He said after the cabinet approved outsourcing process, it would be done by a well-qualified registered company with sound managerial and financial capabilities. He said the power department would work out detailed procedures and technicalities including vigorous monitoring mechanism. Ayemi said the selection of firms will be done through E-tendering. Initially, the outsourcing would be targeted at most revenue intense towns like Kohima, Chümoukedima, Wokha and Mokokchung which would later be expanded. He said community-based system of collection of revenue as in the case of communitisation should be stopped while electricity should be taken out from the purview of Nagaland Communitisation of Public Institutions and Services Act, 2002. He said existing meter readers and billing assistants in the concerned areas would be redeployed for various vigilance, monitoring and supervising activities related to revenue.
Initiating the discussion on matters of urgent public importance pertaining to “Power Reform in Nagaland”, PWD (H&M) minister, Tongpang Ozükum, said even after more than 50 years Statehood, Nagaland was able to produce only 26.5 Megawatts (MW) of power which was a mere 15% of the State’s requirement of 250 MW annually.
He said when other North Eastern states were planning for more power generation and export it to earn additional revenue, Nagaland was still focused on how to balance the dynamics of power trading, buying and selling in order to minimise the huge loss incurred annually.
Citing from administrative report of Power department 2019-2020, Ozükum said so far Nagaland was able to successfully develop and commission only the Likimro Hydro Electric project which produces 24 MW and other three smaller projects which together produce on 2.5 MW.
Drawing examples of neighbouring states such as Arunachal Pradesh where the government had proposed to develop 138 small hydro-projects across 25 districts with a total capacity of 356 MW, Ozükum said it was high time that Nagaland also gave utmost importance to power sector and aim for a higher power and revenue generation. He also drew the House’s attention to communitisation of power and asked whether it was serving its intended purpose and why there was no improvement in revenue generation under it.
Ozükum also stressed on the need to seriously scrutinise the loopholes in the revenue collection system, find out the factors for the losses and further review the communitisation policy, which had been in place for the past ten years.
Congratulating the chief minister on taking over as the chairman of North East Regional Power Committee, Ozukum expressed the hope that under Rio’s guidance, coupled with power department’s comprehensive planning and the support and cooperation of the people, there would be a revolution in the power sector in the State.
Also participating in the discussion, minister for planning & coordination, land revenue and parliamentary affairs, Neiba Kronu, said the State was in dire need of generating more power, both for usage and revenue generation.
Kronu said Nagaland has the potential of generating more than enough electricity to meet its own requirements, that could save a lot of resources since the state was totally dependent on purchasing power from neighbouring states.
He cited examples of places where power could be generated such as -Dikhu 185 megawatt (MW), Lower Tizu 42 MW and Zunki 24 MW. He said that DPR for preparation of 25MW project at Upper Tizu was already under process. Kronu said that money collected from power revenue could be utilized in construction of these power projects.
Kronu lamented that the State was losing a huge sum of money because of its inability to tap into the natural resources to generate power.
Also participating in the discussion opposition member, Y Vikheho Swu, said that many places especially rural areas of Nagaland, faced electricity blackouts even for days owing to shortage of manpower. He said the State has much potential for generating more power.
Leader of the opposition, TR Zeliang said that the most effective way to check corruption was to opt for electronic billing system, which had the ability to correct consumers and also the department.
He pointed out that the department should exploit all the benefits of the available technology which had proven to be effective in checking corruption and irregularities in billing and metering.
Concluding the discussion, chief minister Neiphiu Rio, said that there was an urgent need to reform the Power Policy Act of 2018 starting with the billing and revenue sector.
He appreciated participants from both the treasury and opposition bench for giving good suggestions and highlighting the importance of Power department.
He said in Nagaland, generation, transmission and distribution of power was a huge task, more so because of land issues. Rio expressed pain at how land issues had become the biggest obstacle for development.
Citing examples of how land issues had hampered the 4-lane road project from Kohima to Dimapur for over a decade, Rio said even now the recent surfacing of tiny hutments along the Foothill Road in social media showed the narrow mindedness of the people which should be met with stern disciplinary actions.
He added that respective communities, churches and civil society groups should educate and discipline their own people instead of blaming the government for failing to come up with developmental activities as people only look to exploit land compensation whenever there was an opportunity.
He said such selfish and greedy behaviour would only encourage more mischief even in the future. 
Rio also said when Nagaland and its people were exempted from income, wealth and property taxes and all the resources were being provided by the government of India, it was high time for the people to realise the privilege being accorded and begin paying for services like electricity, water and telephone bills.
Rio pointed out that payment culture for electricity for Dimapur was the worst in the state while Kohima was slightly better. He said there was an urgent need for the people to develop the habit of paying their bills regularly and not take it as a welfare provision in order to prevent revenue loss.

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