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Govt ponders jail term for chief secys for power overdrawal

New Delhi: The government is contemplating levying heavy penalties on states overdrawing electricity that results in grid failure and a possible imprisonment of chief secretaries to check the menace.

"I am contemplating now heavy fine and also a provision to imprison authorities and state chief secretaries for disobeying that ... perhaps we need to enforce it," Power Minister Veerapa Moily told Karan Thapar in 'Devil's Advocate' programme on CNN-IBN.

Over half of the country's population in 21 states went without electricity for several hours on 30 July as three major transmission grids failed, bringing northern, eastern and north-eastern regions to a grinding halt. The massive failure happened less than 24 hours after the Northern Grid collapsed and was revived on 30 July.

Overdrawal of electricity by some states was one of the reasons for failure of power grids on two consecutive days on 30 July and 31 July.

According to Moily, there should be independent regulatory authorities at the state-level to check overdrawing by various states. PTI

Citing the report of the expert panel that probed the failure of grids, Moily said not only overdrawal but overloading was also a reason for the collapse.

"There are various reasons and it is not only overdrawing by some of the states in the Northern Grid but it is also due to overloading from the Western Grid.

"One side, overloading from the Western Grid, second overdrawal here and the combination meant grid collapses for two consecutive days," Moily, who took over as Power Minister earlier this month, said.

According to Moily, there should be independent regulatory authorities at the state-level to check overdrawing by various states.

"We may have to bring some legislation and amendment to the 2003 Electricity Act to ensure that their enforcement powers are really strengthened," he added.

Northern, Eastern and North Eastern grids failed on 31 July, affecting over 60 crore people. The collapse happened less than 24 hours after the Northern Grid tripped and was later restored.

To ensure that key services are not impacted during grid failures, the government is looking at islanding of critical facilities such as hospitals, airports, railways and the Metro, Moily said.

However, he noted that islanding "the entire capital (New Delhi) would not be possible".

Islanding refers to dedicated electricity transmission lines for vital services, that would help in insulating them in the event of major power outages.

Moily noted that power distribution system in the country "is in bad shape".

The power distribution companies (discoms) are bogged down by huge losses and the government is working on rejigging their debt.

"We are working on a debt restructuring plan... so that all the state distribution system is revamped.

"(It) will be done with very stringent conditions," he said, adding that the matter is before the Cabinet.

Further, the Minister said that between now and 2014, the government would reduce the 27 percent of power lost through theft and dissipation to 15.5 percent.

He was responding to a query on the Power Ministry's targets before the 2014 general elections.

PTI