Govt to outsource metering, billing & collection
Kohima, February 18: Concerned over the annual loss of more than Rs 200 crore in power sector, the Nagaland Legislative Assembly (NLA) today took up discussion on “Power Reforms in Nagaland” to revamp the revenue sector as well improve power generation within the State.
The discussion was initiated by Minister for PWD (Housing) Tongpang Ozukum.
Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio said the power sector is incurring heavy losses, which is no longer acceptable. He said against the amount of Rs. 392.28 crore spent on power purchase during 2019-20, the revenue earned was Rs. 162.91 crore, thereby incurring a loss of Rs 229.37 cr. While during the current financial year, against power purchase of Rs. 452 crore, the Government is expecting to get about Rs. 175 crore.
“This shows how serious the problem has become. The situation has been similar since 2010 with our revenue realization being less than 50% of the expenditure on power purchase since 2010-11,” he said.
Rio said that the State Power Department is taking up the first step to outsource metering, billing and collection as a step of reformation in the power sector.
“It is felt that all other revenue related departments should come out with their outsourcing policy to improve revenue as well as service delivery. If required a consolidated Outsourcing Act should be brought out covering all revenue related departments to reform the revenue sector in the State,” Rio said during the discussion.
The CM said it is time that all VIPs, all Government officials and Government departments should make a habit of paying electricity bills, water bills, telephone bills, etc.
Rio said that the power purchase is increasing because the transmission and distribution network has drastically improved in the last few years and electricity has reached all the villages under the 2011 census.
Dimapur District alone consumes about 50% percent of the State’s electricity supply but the payment culture of the people is not improving. There is heavy power theft and many rich people, especially in Dimapur District, are willfully not paying electricity bills, which encourages all kinds of vices, Rio said.
Kohima District is consuming about 20% of the State electricity supply and although the payment culture is better than Dimapur there is a need to improve the revenue position, he said.
Since Dimapur and Kohima combined is consuming about 70% of electricity supply and outsourcing of metering, billing and collection is required to be done in these two cities in the first phase, he said.
Mokokchung and Wokha are two other districts where consumption of power is higher and “we can include outsourcing of metering, billing and collection in the second phase.”
Rio said all villages too should be outsourced in the fourth phase as Communitization is a failure in so far as electricity is concerned and it is also a violation of Electricity Act 2003.
The Chief Minister also stressed on the need to remove electricity from Nagaland Communitization of Public Institutions and Services Act, 2002.
Rio suggested that the State should follow the Electricity Act 2003 and since Nagaland Communitisation of Public Institutions and Services Act, 2002 is also an Act, an appropriate decision is required to remove electricity from the ambit of communitisation.
Minister for PWD (Housing) Tongpang Ozukum initiating the discussion said that Nagaland State is lacking in many areas compared to other states in India and the power sector is no exception.
Even after more than 50 years of statehood, we are still unable to make much headway in developing the power sector in the State despite many efforts, he said.
Ozukum said that the Government spends a huge amount of money every year to purchase power, “but people are not willing to pay for what we consume, rather they will harass and intimidate the department.”
The minister stressed on the need to ‘seriously ponder upon the loopholes in the revenue collection system, find out the factors for less revenue generation’ and also if needed we should also review the communitisation policy which is in place for more than 10 years.”
Ozukum felt that it should be the collective effort and responsibility of the Government, the Power Department and all the stakeholders down to the village level to streamline the system by further educating and sensitizing “our people and even ourselves to be more responsible and sensible Power consumers.”
Advisor for Power Tovihoto Ayemi said that the department is heavily occupied with ensuring adequate power supply to the citizens of the State. He said that there is an acute shortage of meter readers and there is low work culture resulting in not taking meter reading for many consumers.
Due to improper meter reading, vast numbers of consumer bills are generated as average and minimum bills since the Department is supposed to generate electricity bills every month.
“Sometimes, when the actual meter readings are taken, the consumers’ resulting bills become huge, thereby inviting consumers’ complaints and resentment,” he said.
Ayemi told the House that improper meter reading and billing have resulted in the poor collection of revenue.
He said that the department of power had taken several initiatives to improve meter reading, billing, and collection to improve electricity revenue.
He said the department of power proposed some interim initiatives to improve the revenue through some interventions in metering, billing, and collection, adding that the Cabinet has approved for the outsourcing process to be implemented.
The outsourcing process will be done through a well qualified registered company with sound financial and managerial capabilities.
Initially, the outsourcing will be targeted in the most revenue intensive towns like Kohima, Dimapur, Chumukedima, Wokha and Mokokchung, which can be expanded later as required.
Minister for Planning & Coordination, Land Revenue and Parliamentary Affairs Neiba Kronu said that Nagaland State has the potential to generate power projects like Dikhu 186 MW, Lower Tizu 42 MW and Zunki 24 MW.
He said that DPR is under preparation for Upper Tizu for 25 MW.
“We must let people know that we have the potential and we must start these power projects,” Kronu said, adding that the State has proposed for Rs 1111 crore power generation projects with the 15th Finance Commission.
Leader of Opposition, T R Zeliang said the Nagaland Government introduced electronic billing system in 2016-17 and started with Dimapur, which should have been extended to other districts in order to stop manipulation of the bills payment and shortfall in revenue collection.
Suggesting prepaid or postpaid system of billing like in phones and TV, he said “when technology is in place why not go with the new technology to reduce the manpower shortage and corruption.
At least Kohima, Dimapur, Mokokchung, Jalukie need to introduce a system to check corruption which will ease the department and consumers if the department is serious to resolve and revamp the power department, he said.
Zeliang also maintained that Nagaland has a lot of potential to produce power both hydro and solar.
Stating that the fiscal deficit in the State is mounting because of the meager annual revenue collection in the Power Department, Zeliang suggested the Department to come out with concrete proposals for future reference.
MLA Vikheho Swu said that in the absence of any paper in the form of reforms by the Department, it is difficult to give suggestions. He said reform is not only about revenue but the entire aspect of whether one is relieved or frustrated by getting power connection.
Taking Pughoboto as an example, he said the subdivision has a 5MVA power line connected from Wokha while the revenue is submitted to Kohima. It faces difficulty whenever problem arises due to power failure, he said while justifying that Wokha division is not interested to mend the fault as they don’t get revenue while Kohima also don’t pay heed as they don’t supply power to Pughoboto sub-division, which results in days and weeks of power cut.
He suggested that the department should prioritize connecting Pughoboto with Kohima and that due consideration be given to the problems faced by rural areas.
On generation, Swu said that Nagaland has potential of setting up many Hydro Electric Projects if planned properly as the State is fortunate to have so many rivers.
Two such potentialities for Mini HEP are in Pughoboto between Sathakha and Chishilimi, he informed.
Swu also stressed on the need for paradigm shift or structural changes and reviewing the communitisation of electricity in the State for reforms in the power sector, while also seeking for strict and prompt accountability in revenue collection. (Page News Service)