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Archive for March 2013

Power”less” sector & issue of clearances

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The power sector is one of the most critical components of our economy and nation building and also a huge contributor to the GDP growth. As a nation, if we want to achieve 8-10% GDP growth – the importance of a robust, efficient and functional power sector is very crucial.

However, in the current state of affairs in the country given the governance or lack of it, political will to help develop a robust and efficient power sector seems to be touching new depths by the day.

Energy

Suffering from worst energy crisis

Issues of clearances and approvals in our system become one of the biggest obstacles to growth and the interpretations of these for setting up a power project anywhere in the country is taking its toll on them.

Irrespective of the type of fuel being used for setting up a power project – coal; LNG, nuclear, hydro or non-convention like solar & wind; project developers be it State or private are up against a huge wall. Be it government; civil society or administration – there is no respite for any developer wanting to set up a power project.

When a project developer has received all the statutory and mandatory approvals from the government agencies – State & Central as stipulated by the Ministry of Power and then decides to set up a project – the obstacles and issues start. Right from identification of land and its acquisition thereafter is fraught with some myriad of issues that start at the village level right up to the State and Center – even if the land is government land. Compensation; Relocation & Rehabilitation don’t find enough support despite it following the rule of the land and in accordance to the stipulations issued by the government agencies.

The recent observation of Justices H L Dutta and Ranjan Gogoi sums up the mood in the country on power projects. “The moment a power project is to start, litigation is filed in court. If initially the project cost is Rs 1000 crore, it escalated to Rs 10,000 crore over the years and tax-payers money is wasted.  They also went on to add: “People don’t want a hydro-electric plant or a nuclear power plant, but everybody wants bijli.”

In the power sector where chaos seems to be rule with no redressal body for the power developers to go and knock doors seeking a solution to their problems especially when large sums of money – upwards of Rs 75000-100000 crore of public funds; we are running into a “darker” side of “power” in the truest sense.

We are also moving to a situation where Governments will start declaring Four Hours of Scheduled Power Supply instead of Four Hours of Scheduled Power Cuts; if the government, civil society with its green or other social activists and the administration don’t pay heed to the huge mess they have created in the process.

With administration not offering support | succor of any sort; political will lacking in any case whether it’s do with clearances & approvals of setting up power plants; the highly fragmented and distorted tariff structure and civil society in the garb of pollution, land & labour loss or compensation continue to push the country into a darker and irreversible path – we are running the risk of moving back to stone age.

The multiplicity of stakeholders and need for creating a situation where we agree to disagree on some issues and looking for partnership and willingness to work out amicable solutions instead of pleasing everyone – in my view is the only way forward.

Written by schelluri

March 12, 2013 at 6:02 pm

No one wants power plants, but everyone wants bijli: SC

with 4 comments

Written by schelluri

March 12, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Do Journalist also need basic qualification??

with 2 comments


Justice Markandey Katju – Chairman, Press Council blog on Journalists need qualification (http://justicekatju.blogspot.in/) – A commentary on the same..

A great initiative that has been overdue for a long time.  As a former journalist with Times of India, Indian Express & Deccan Chronicle and now an independent communication consultant for clients – I feel it’s imperative that some basic qualification is required to write a story or report an event.

Despite an MA -Economics from Univ. of Hyderabad, used to be wary while reporting on economic or business issues and consult with seniors during my reporting career. Today, when I meet business reporters in leading dailies – feel sad at their competency levels and understanding of macro issues, RBI policy, GDP and other subjects but they write with gusto – unquestioned by the publication and at times, make a mockery of themselves and their shallow understanding of the issue.

With an onslaught of new media houses coming up in addition to those already present – it’s more a numbers game than a talent issue. In Hyderabad for example, there are 18 TV channels in Telugu – if you see the profile of these reporters – their stories or style of reporting is obvious and hence the viewership. There is hardly any TV channel that has a proper content plan but they run 24×7 news channels and keep showing the same piece over & over again.

Also, the lack of basic qualification merits higher attention especially when the reportage causes great damage to an individual or firm with an

inaccurate report with some damaging visuals that have been fabricated. Unfortunately, it’s the responsibility of the victim to prove his innocence – the issue of rejoinder or clarification is getting lost in the process. The sheer lack of a redressal mechanism for someone whose reputation has been damaged by a wrong news report makes it even more difficult and at times painful to trust the media house or reporter. 

Clinical Trials, Microfinance, SEZs, Power Sector, Aviation, Telecom are some of the areas where my clients operate and I am always at wits end to explain how the media works with the clients since irresponsible reporting is the default norm. TV channels run havoc with stories and visuals that have not been corroborated or cross-checked with the other party – basic minimum requirement and client then either resort to ignore the report or find ways to “Manage” the media in their own fashion.

The job of a communication consultant gets very difficult to operate in these circumstances and hence am keeping away from media relations purely on account of this lack of basic qualifications to report.

Take the issue of energy crisis in Andhra Pradesh – 4-6 hours of power cuts imposed in metros and longer duration in villages. The media reporting is only on power cuts, problems faced by citizens and farmers and closure of SME and how thousand are rendered jobless due to power cuts. Not a single TV channel or newspaper makes an attempt to get to the root cause of power cuts – why is there no generation happening in Andhra and what happens to the large number of projects that are “in hibernation” unable to generate despite getting requisite mandatory & regulatory permissions.

The media is not keen to understand why projects are being stalled by activists, environmentalists and farmers and generation coming to stand still in Andhra. A celebration of disruption called “Bhutalli Panduga” OR Festival of Mother Earth was organized in Sompeta, Srikakulam District by National Alliance of People Movement – AP Chapter to celebrate the success in stalling the 2640 MW coal-fired power project and it completing 1000 days. A three-day conclave with different academics, films, radio plays and the works were organised celebrating disruption – media coverage was huge in local dailies. Not a single daily questioned what is the need for this three-day conclave, where are the funds coming to organise such a large event – power for the function etc OR is stalling a power project call for such celebration??

With over Rs. 75000 crore being invested in projects in India from Nationalised  PSU banks and equity coming from promoters and some global PE firms – all currently stuck due to lack of political will, red-tapism and mindless agitation & protests by green groups – there is no power projects taking off the ground. The banks will not question Govt. inaction or lack of policy inaction; promoters are scared lest further delay is added to their project and hence don’t talk in public for and the red-tapism and bureaucratic delay adds to the delay and the media is laughing & enjoying the fun from sidelines.

 

Just now there is a report of Credit Suisse, a rating agency downgrading Tata Power Mundra project since the tariff hike sought by the company due to bringing imported coal from Indonesia is unlikely to get sorted soon and hence losses of over Rs. 1500 crore  will mount on the company.

(Read: : http://www.firstpost.com/fwire/credit-suisse-downgrades-tata-power-shares-fall-656970.html)

 

A SC bench of Justices HL Dattu and Ranjan Gogoi said recently: The moment a power project is to start, litigation is filed in court. If initially, the project cost is Rs 1000 crore, it escalates to Rs 10000 crore over the years and tax-payers money is wasted. They go on add – No one wants power plants, but everyone wants bijli.”

(Read: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-01-25/india/36546959_1_power-projects-kudankulam-nuclear-power-plant)

Every sector has a minimum qualification as you rightly pointed out but journalism profession needs none but they have the right to question how a company or govt. could start some work \ project without getting the minimum qualification to execute the same. Lack of understanding and nowadays, willingness to understand also and the pressure of one-upmanship, pressure of advertising & TRP ratings are bringing a lot of disrepute to the profession. 

As a former journalist and now an independent communication consultant – it pains me to see the profession withering with such blatant violation of basic rules to function. Hope your attempt garners sufficient support and some amount of basic guidelines are put in place for the profession to become truly Fourth Pillar and not medium that doesn’t get ample respect