Uncertainty clouds big power projects in Jharkhand 

Ranchi, Jan 15 (IANS) Land acquisition issues have thrown up big question marks over two planned ultra mega power projects in Jharkhand, where the power scenario remains grim, notwithstanding Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of making the state surplus in this crucial infrastructure sector.

Canvassing during the Jharkhand assembly polls a little over a year ago, Modi had promised adequate number of power plants in the eastern state that was carved out of Bihar in 2000.

“Jharkhand is a big producer of coal, but the state remains under darkness. This is a most unfortunate thing,” Modi had said time and again during the campaign ahead of the November-December 2014 elections that saw the BJP form the government.

But despite the Raghubar Das ministry completing a year in office, his claim of making the tribal-dominated state a power hub seems a journey riddled with thorns.

After Reliance Power withdrew from the 3,960 MW Tilaiya Ultra Mega Power Project (UMPP) last year, the fate of another 3,960 MW UMPP at Deoghar also hangs in the balance due to land problems.

Anil Ambani-led Reliance Power had withdrawn from the Tilaiya project in Koderma district citing the land acquisition problem after it faced stiff resistance from the local residents.

The second UMPP project proposed at Deoghar and requiring 2,600 acres is also suffering from land bottlenecks. The problem stems from the fact that the project area includes both forest and raiyati (private) land.

“The coal block for Deoghar UMPP has been allocated and the process is on to get the land. We hope that the bidding for Deoghar UMPP will be done in the next financial year (from April 1),” Jharkhand energy secretary S.K. Rahate told IANS.

Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal had written to the state government last year asking it to expedite the work by creating a congenial environment.

The state government is now trying to revive the Tilaiya UMPP.

“We hope that the bidding for the Tilaiya UMPP will be done by March this year,” said Rahate.

Jharkhand will get 25 percent of the power generated by both the UMPPs. The state’s share will be around 2,000 MW If both the projects are operational.

Another project, a joint venture between NTPC and the Jharkhand government-run Patratu Thermal Power Station (PTPS), is drawing flak from opposition parties and the plant’s employees.

The two entities had signed a Memorandum of Agreement last year for performance improvement and 4,000 MW capacity expansion of the PTPS. A joint venture company has been floated, with 76:24 equity participation by NTPC and PTPS. Jharkhand will get 85 percent of the power generated by the JV.

The first 2,400 MW phase comprising three units of 800 MW each is scheduled to be commissioned in May 2019.

The JV is however being flayed by PTPS employees, who feel their company has got a raw deal.

“The assets of PTPS have been transferred and it has an equity of only 26 percent in the JV entity. PTPS has the coal block, water and infrastructure. The state government never made any serious effort to revive the ailing PTPS,” an engineer employed with the company told IANS.

The project may suffer as the opposition parties are planning to move the High Court against the JV.

Over the last 15 years, the Jharkhand government signed scores of MoUs in the steel, power and other sectors — but a majority of them could not start due to land acquisition problems.

The private power companies which had signed MoUs were Tata Power, Essar and Abhijeet Power, apart from Reliance.

Abhijeet Power was tasked to set up a 1,900 MW power plant. The company developed the plant in Latehar district but is now beset with bank loan problems. It is also yet to get a coal block.

Work on Essar Power’s 1,800 MW project is on, also in Latehar district.

But, according to sources in the company, the unavailability of a coal block is the main stumbling block in starting the plant, though the chimney has been installed and and 50 percent of the work completed.

As per the MoA, Essar Power was slated to start its first 600 MW unit by the end of 2013. The new deadline is yet to be fixed.

In all this, it is little wonder that much of Jharkhand is in darkness.

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