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‘Privatisation Is Not The Panacea For All The Woes’
The power minister is optimistic about the UDAY programme, and believes that the Union Budget 2016 is for the poor and the marginalised
Photo Credit : Ritesh Sharma
The Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Power, Coal and New and Renewable Energy Piyush Goyal talks to BW Businessworld about his ministry and the Union Budget. Edited excerpts of the interview:
Has the Union Budget demolished the suit boot ki sarkar notion?
We believe in Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay’s ideology of antyodaya, which means serving the last man at the bottom of the pyramid. This Budget is a continuation of our efforts to serve the poor and the marginalised.
You think you have got enough in the Budget?
The power sector today stands on its own feet. UDAY is taking off very well. We got good traction from states. There’s a lot of enthusiasm among the states to bring down tariff to take power to every citizen 24X7. Renewable energy is doing well. The amount that we expected from the Budget for our Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana and the Integrated Power Development Scheme has been received.
You have been feted as a top-ranking minister. Does the Prime Minister have words of encouragement for you?
Unless we challenge ourselves, we will not get the best results. For years, Coal India reported 1 or 2 per cent growth, and occasionally 3 or 4 per cent. Today, the company is not satisfied even with 9 per cent. Earlier, the renewable energy target was to generate 20,000 MW of solar power by 2022; but we have reset the target and made it 1,00,000 MW. And within the first year itself, we would be bidding out 18,000 MW of contracts. They have challenged themselves to achieve this kind of result.
You are implementing the PM’s vision. Does he micromanage?
In my 21 months of experience, not once has he ordered me to do anything this way or that way. He does take reviews. My own focus on accountability and monitoring came from a small dialogue I had with him. He asked me a couple of questions for which I was not prepared. It was regarding the LED project, which he had launched on 5 January 2015.
A couple of months later he asked me: how many bulbs have you sold?, I said I will have to check, I won’t know off the cuff. I had gone to discuss the coal block auctions. I was ill-prepared for this. And he said this is not how you succeed in a mission. Unless you monitor what’s happening, and hold people accountable for what they work, you can’t succeed. He explained how he did the Jan Dhan Yojna, which opened 13 crore bank accounts in just four months.
When you have such a passionate leader guiding you, you can think of the strength that we get in our work.
And the creation of DELP app for LED bulbs was the result of that conversation.
Are you confident that you will take electricity to 18,452 villages by 2017-end?
Yes, absolutely. We have created the GARV app, which anyone can download, and hold me accountable by tracking my work and progress. As a village gets electrified, it gets updated on the app. Till 29 February, we’ve accomplished 5,930 villages. We have made an internal target of 7,000 villages by 31 March.
UDAY is well on course, but how will you ensure that political interference in power distribution at the state government level is eliminated?
Anybody who doesn’t perform is shown the door by the people. States have realised that. Those who perform are re-elected. This gives me the confidence that state governments would have to bring their power sectors in good shape, else their continuance in power will be threatened.
The UDAY programme also provides a lot of safeguards. For example, banks are not allowed to lend anymore for funding the losses of these discoms. If funds are required, they will have to be borrowed by state governments or through bonds, which should have the state government’s guarantee. As time passes, 15 per cent of the losses will have to compulsorily come in the state government’s budget.
While political interference may have temporary setbacks, they cannot demolish the success of the UDAY programme.
Some experts say that privatisation could be one way out. Do you agree with the idea?
Ownership doesn’t define the success or failure of an organisation; it’s the vision and the leadership.
It’s the private companies that are causing stress to the banking system. In our LED programme, we’ve have provided 7 crore LED bulbs. This is a government undertaking company — Energy Efficiency Services. Two years ago, this company was distributing just 6,00,000 bulbs a year. It is now providing between 7,00,000 and 8,00,000 bulbs a day. I would challenge any private company to match this kind of growth.
Privatisation may have some advantages, but it’s not the panacea for all the problems.