‘Government firm on providing 100 units of free power’

Mumbai: Even though Finance Minister Ajit Pawar poured cold water on the proposal to provide 100 units of power free of cost, Power Minister Nitin Raut is firm about this proposal. Speaking to The Free Press Journal, he expressed confidence that Pawar and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray would support the move. He also announced his resolve to provide power to farmers for at least four hours in the day.

Finance Minister Ajit Pawar has opposed your proposal to provide 100 units of power free of cost. Are you still determined to go ahead with it?

I think the reservations expressed by Ajit Pawar were those of the finance minister. He must be worried about how he will provide Rs 7,000 crore for this scheme. The Maha Vikas Aghadi government is more concerned about the poor. I am confident that deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and CM Uddhav Thackeray will support this proposal. The victory of the Aam Aadmi Party in New Delhi shows we can defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party's vicious politics only on the basis of developmental works. The free power provided to the poor by the AAP government gave major relief to the poor and the labour class. This decision played a key role in the popularity of their government, which helped them defeat the divisive politics of the BJP. I have also resolved to provide at least four hours of power to the farmers in the daytime. I am confident, if we provide such relief to poor domestic consumers and farmers, the MVA government in the state will defeat BJP's politics of hatred.

How you will you cope with the financial losses because of this measure?

The first thing I want to make clear is that we will not demand any major financial grant or budgetary support for this scheme. I have decided to plug leakages in the system. For instance, if the production, transmission and distribution costs per unit of power supplied by the Adani Group is Rs 100, why is our government companies' cost Rs 200? This means there is corruption in the system. I want to end this corruption and bring down this cost to Rs100. I found that some powerful people have made thermal power generation plants their personal fiefdoms. The chief engineers of every plant have the right to sanction projects up to Rs 5 crore. The powerful lobby pressurises the CEs of the respective thermal plants to use their discretionary powers to sanction its projects. We want to compete with private companies, with honesty and efficiency. We will transfer the saved Rs100 to fund the free 100 units-power scheme. I have asked Principal Secretary Aseem Gupta to prepare a detailed report, by talking with the state government-owned, three power companies.

How will you address the issue of the high power tariffs of industry?

Not just industry power tariffs, those of domestic users too are on the higher side. I have resolved to reduce these. The costly power provided to industry is affecting our industrial growth. This is why industries are not interested in investing in the state. The Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) can purchase bulk power from us and then distribute it to industries at the lower price fixed by them. On Tuesday, I met Industry Minister Subhash Desai and discussed this proposal. He was positive about this. We are owed Rs 36,000 crore in dues by various sectors. Many industrialists and other powerful people have not paid our bills or dues. I am ready to take some unpopular decisions, like disconnecting power supply and other disciplinary measures. These efforts will lower our overall production costs and ultimately lower the power tariffs for industry and domestic users.

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