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Tuesday, Mar 12, 2002

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Gujarat to push power reforms

Vinod Mathew

What is definitely on the cards during the current Assembly session is a push to major power sector reforms which will signal the total revamping of the Gujarat Electricity Board.

GANDHINAGAR, March 11

THIS could well be a bid to draw attention away from non-core businesses such as riots that has been taking up much time and effort of the State machinery in recent days when the State Assembly reconvenes on Wednesday. It could also be a genuine effort from the side of the Gujarat Government to revamp the sagging fortunes of the State electricity board.

What is definitely on the cards during the current Assembly session is a push to major power sector reforms which will signal the total revamping of the Gujarat Electricity Board (GEB).

The State Electricity Reforms Bill, pending with the House, is expected to give the nod to the initial setting up of at least two wholly-owned subsidiaries of the GEB which will function as zonal transmission and distribution (T&D) companies.

The subsidiary companies are looking to hire professionals for its top managerial positions, including the managing directors and some key areas such as finance. The bulk of the staff would come from the GEB, which would thus go in for a major reallocation of its considerable workforce.

The proposal to bring a leaner look to the State electricity board has already got the nod of the GEB staff.

According to some of the officers involved in the drafting of the Reforms Bill, there would be no bureaucratic or political involvement in the day-to-day functioning of either of these two companies.

The Reforms Bill is closely tied in with the $350-million loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) which had been dragging feet for some time now.

It is reliably understood that the multilateral agency has timed the release of its second tranche of $50 million by April-end. But, this may depend to a great extent on whether some of the reforms that the ADB had been insisting upon get the nod from the State Government during the current Assembly session.

The Manila-based agency, which had cleared the $350-million loan for power sector reforms in Gujarat some two years ago, had released its first tranche of $50 million in January 2001. The ADB had been cooling its heels ever since then, waiting for the reforms that were just not happening in the State's power sector.

The Electricity Reforms Bill is expected to address some of these areas including a partial introduction of metering for the agriculture sector at least in the case of drip irrigation.

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