Gujarat An Empowering Example

Taking power reforms to the grassroots level, Gujarat is an example that most states need to emulate

01 January, 2010 Special Reports, Power & Energy
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There are few states in India  that can claim to provide  almost round-the-clock power to its villages and Gujarat is  one of them. It is also one of the few states in the country that can claim to offer a minimum of eight-hour power supply for agricultural purposes. All this has been the result of electricity reforms and strict observance of law, which have reduced transmission losses and theft.

In fact, Gujarat is one of the few states in the country where the per capita consumption of power is way above the national average: 1,354 units against the national average of only 665 units. Says A K Verma, MD, Uttar Gujarat Vij Company Ltd, the improved power situation in the state is the result of action-oriented schemes like the Jyoti GramYojana. For the rest of India, this might only turn out to be a reality in the year 2012 if the Central Government is able to implement its ‘Power for all Scheme’.

To what does Gujarat owe its phenomenal progress in the power sector is a question that many ask? For many, the answer probably lies in the rich natural resource that the state is endowed with. But then, a similar improvement should also have been seen in other states that have a large natural resource base. So, how did Gujarat do what it did? Among the various measures that were introduced, the few key steps, which enabled state power utilities to emerge with a more profitable face were; bifurcation of feeders, crackdown on power theft, including sealing of connections, and improvements in cash cash collection.

A K Verma, MD, Uttar Gujarat Vij Company Ltd

In fact, the Jyoti Gram Yojana is basically a feeder separation scheme. Verma explains, “under the scheme, all domestic feeders supplying power in the rural areas both to the houses and for agricultural purposes-were separated.  Today, the agriculture feeders are supplying power for eight hours on an average for agricultural purposes while the domestic feeders cater to the needs of the households and small commercial establishments.” But, how does the power utility distinguish between the purposes for which the power is being used. “While the feeder for farm purposes is a three-phase feeder, the one for domestic purposes is a single-phase feeder,”  But, it is a misnomer to think that it was only the separation of feeders that helped streamline supply. “Streamlining or bifurcation of the feeders only helps when the utility is able to tackle the problem of unauthorised load,” adds Verma.

This streamlining of usage and check on theft saw the state power utilities verify almost all connections, both high tension and low tension. This exercise resulted in a substantial recovery in terms of fines, installation of authorised meters, better audit and improved cash collections. In fact, in improving cash collections of the state power utilities, Gujarat has perhaps been the most innovative amongst other Indian states. Faced with poor collections, rising corruption and mounting power utility losses, the government decided to entrust this task to private agencies and the post offices. The efforts have borne fruit.

Today, Gujarat, which has in place one of the largest e-networks at the grassroots level in the country, is seeking to use its strengths in this field to streamline operations of all power utilities in the states. Propelled by the Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam Ltd (GUVNL), the IT solutions will not only increase operational efficiency, but also improve customer service. The project covers human resources, payrolls, e-procurement, accounting, budget and other departments apart from some customer-centric solutions. Says Verma, “it is this ERP solution that will connect all our e-Grams, making them facilitating bill collection and consumer issue centres. The project is being implemented by GUVNL and all its subsidiary companies. These include the Gujarat State Electricity Corporation Limited (GSECL), the Gujarat Energy Transmission Corporation Limited (GETCO) and four distribution companies. According to Verma, “various parts of the e-Urja project are at different stages of implementation and by early 2010, all the services will be online.”

Yet another innovation that has been successfully adopted by the power utilities in Gujarat to stay away from controversies in the bidding process has been to change the technical norms of the materials and equipment required to maintain optimal supply to industry standards. “This issue of awarding a contract to the lowest bidder on certain pre-fixed terms was affecting maintenance and equipment quality, so I asked my people to change the technical norms in keeping with industry standards. The result is there for all to see: today, the harassment our line staff-always the first to face the brunt in case of outages and breakdowns-is minimal to say the least,” concludes Verma.

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