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Regulators' club gets new members

Anil Sasi in New Delhi | August 11, 2003 08:10 IST

Regulatory activism is set to gather steam, with the Forum of Indian Regulators, a registered society formed by power sector regulators three years ago, now drawing in others.

The latest to join the club is the Tariff Authority for Major Ports. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, which has been attending the forum's meetings, is also likely to come on board.

While it may be premature to say the forum will take on the government on issues like greater functional autonomy, the fact that some regulators face the threat of their powers being curbed has led to a great deal of consternation among them.

For instance, the recent power tariff policy floated by the government has irked quite a few state and central power regulators. There is a feeling among these regulators that the government is overstepping its mandate and trying to usurp their powers.

This is akin to the turmoil in the telecommunications sector in 1999, when Trai's judicial powers were clipped and handed over to the Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal.

That the Tariff Authority for Major Ports, which was recently directed by the ministry of shipping to set tariff ceilings instead of floors for the country's 12 major ports, has decided to join the forum could be a pointer to regulators getting together to protect their turf.

To be a part of the forum, one has to pay a token fee of Rs 100,000. The 70-odd members of the forum, comprising past and present chairmen and members of central and state electricity regulatory commissions, meet at least once in three months. The next meeting is scheduled for September 5 in Bhopal.

While interaction among regulators and uniformity in tariff orders is one of the key areas discussed during the meetings, the forum is now doubling up as a platform for stakeholders, like private power projects, industry associations and central public sector units, to present their views to the regulators.

While the Forum of Indian Regulators is a society under the Registered Societies Act, 1999, the chairmen of power sector regulators, both central and states, are required to form a statutory body of regulatory institutions under Section 166 of the Electricity Act, 2003.

"Even though we have to form a statutory body, we will keep the forum afloat for regulatory interface," a regulatory commission functionary said.

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