Energy minister Nitin Raut said the state will be plunged into darkness if MSEDCL’s arrears are not cleared.
Mounting debt and soaring arrears will gravely impact MSEDCL’s power supply functions. The state-run company has nearly three crore consumers and payment of bills is required for its day-to-day functioning and expansion of infrastructure for uninterrupted power supply. The government must incentivize payment of dues rather than take harsh steps of disconnecting connections. Also, the department should put its house in order and reduce wasteful expenditure.
A meeting to find a solution to ever-mounting losses was chaired by chief minister Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday and was attended by nearly a dozen cabinet ministers. Raut said the highest outstanding of Rs 49,575 crore was from agricultural consumers, while nearly Rs 8,000 crore was uncleared by inter-governmental departments like water supply schemes. Officials said the department sought Rs 20,000 crore as loan guarantee for liquidity, but no assurance was given by Thackeray regarding the financial package.
Raut said mismanagement during BJP rule led to an increase in pending dues. The arrears in 2014-15 stood at Rs 23,224 crore, which soared to Rs 59,833 crore in 2019-20. “As soon as we took charge we were hit by the pandemic, then there were natural calamities like cyclones and a deluge, which led to a huge loss of electricity infrastructure. We have floated an expression of interest seeking help from international consultants to tide over the situation,” said Raut. He said once the consultant submits a report giving solutions they will take it to the cabinet for approval and action. Raut said the government was considering splitting MSEDCL into divisional companies.
Sources said many ministers, including those of Congress, were critical about MSEDCL’s functioning. “Despite huge losses, it approved purchases of many cars. Cost of electricity production is higher due to poor quality of coal. There is huge discrepancy in meters, especially for agricultural consumers. They need to get their house in order,” said a senior minister.
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