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|May 5, 1998||
Jaya, Kumaramangalam in power struggle
A fresh controversy cropped up today between the All India Anna DMK and the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition government at the Centre, this time over an ordinance on power tariffs.
Earlier, AIADMK chief J Jayalalitha had voiced her opposition to the recent ordinance, saying discontinuation of free power to farmers was not acceptable to her party.
In a statement in Madras, she had charged the Vajpayee government with not consulting its coalition partners before promulgating the ordinance.
Responding promptly, Union Power Minister P R Kumaramangalam said the Cabinet had considered the ordinance and the proposed bill and therefore, all Cabinet member partners are deemed to have been consulted on it.
In a statement in New Delhi, the minister said the ordinance and the proposed bill were part of the reforms package in the national agenda of governance adopted by the ruling combine.
The power minister said the deliberate attempt by the DMK government in the state to misinterpret the ordinance and mislead the farming community was wrong. ''This will go against the larger interest of Tamil Nadu and the country as a whole,'' he said.
The ordinance for establishment of the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission and the state electricity regulatory commissions does not harm the farmers's interest. ''If anything, it is a positive development towards increasing the power generating capacity in Tamil Nadu."
As fresh power generating capacities are established, the state could give increased cash subsidies to farmers. ''Otherwise, acute shortages will remain and the state of the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board's finances will go from bad to worse,'' he said.
The minister asserted emphatically that farmers's interest was not affected by the ordinance.
On the contrary, it gave ''a special dispensation'' to the farmers and left the decision to provide for subsidised power in the hands of the state government.
He clarified that the state government has full jurisdiction to give as much subsidy as it can afford.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, while intervening in a debate in the state assembly yesterday, had said his government would not withdraw, under any circumstance, the free power supply scheme for farmers, introduced in 1989 by the then DMK regime.
Recently, the Centre had set in motion the process of setting up regulatory bodies for the power sector at the Centre and in the states with the promulgation of an ordinance.
The ordinance said the CERC and SERCs will come into being in three months time, with quasi-judicial powers. A bill to replace the ordinance will also be introduced in the Budget session of Parliament.
The ordinance said subsidies for all sectors except agriculture will be reduced to 50 per cent of the cost of the power, which includes supply also. The agriculture sector has been given a three-year moratorium by the end of which tariff will be brought at par with other sectors.
The minister's statement on the ordinance came soon after Jayalalitha made it clear that the ordinance was not agreeable to her party.
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