IS INDIAآ’S POWER MINISTRY AHEAD OF ITS TIME?

Vol 3, PW 2 (17 Feb 99) People & Policy
     

Chairmen and directors of Indias Public Sector Units (PSU) have traditionally run scared of the ministries that control them.

Such deference should have ended with the introduction of an autonomy (Navratna) package to give select PSUs functional and financial freedom, but as one correspondent puts it: "The Navratna policy isnt worth the paper it is written on". True, in the oil sector, this remains the case.

In the power sector, however, interesting developments are afoot, best reflected in a row between the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and the Ministry of Power, over the formers decision to import LNG independently of Petronet-LNG. On 5 February, the Business Line newspaper published an article in which it claimed the power ministry has issued a Diktat to NTPC to drop the tender plans and begin direct negotiations with Petronet-LNG or Gujarat Pipavav LNG Ltd, a British Gas backed joint venture.

Not so, argues the power ministry. In a separate interview with Petrowatch, a senior power ministry official dismisses the article as misleading.

"It is not our job to order NTPC to do anything", said the official, "NTPC can make its own decisions. Our job is only as a facilitator.

We are advising NTPC to explore all possible options. We are not shutting out the open tender option.

All we are saying is that there are existing LNG projects which have already come on stream and it may be quicker to go with them rather than with a tender which could take 2-3 years to complete. Time is short for us.

In the next 2-3 years we have a number of power projects coming up and we want to tie-up the LNG supply at the earliest". As if to stress the point, the official ended the interview with the words.

"If you really want to know NTPCs plans youll have to talk to Rajendra Singh (Chairman). He makes all the decisions".