August 23, 2017, New Delhi: “The corruption in the power sector is in the tune of over one lakh crore,” said senior journalist and author Paranjoy Guha Thakurta.

The former editor of EPW and author of Gas Wars alleged that out of this, Rs one lakh crore, the corruption of Rs 50,000 is ‘well-established,’ and is in court. He said that the Department of Revenue Intelligence has also accepted the corruption of Rs 50,000 crore done through over-invoicing of coal and machinery.

Guha-Thakurta was speaking at a daylong National Conference on the State of India’s Thermal Power, which discussed trends, costs and mounting financial stress caused by the energy sector.

Earlier in the day, speaking at the programme on the NPA in the power sector, Jyoti Parikh, a former member of the Planning Commission, said that the rise of solar energy is not the only reason for rising NPA in the power sector. She emphasized that, as of March 2017, India only produces 12GW of solar energy. The target of achieving 75 GW till 2022 is still beyond reach.

Soumya Dutta, a scientist and activist working on the environmental justice, said that out of the total NPA of Rs 14 lakh crore, around 20 percent of the debt is in the power sector, especially thermal sector. These power plants not only are creating holes in the state exchequer and in taxpayer’s pocket but also killing people by emitting poisonous gases.

Connecting the mess in the power sector with the people’s lives, Prafulla Samantra, 2017 Goldman award recipient, said that the power projects have wrecked havoc in Odisha. “They are not only creating conflict among the societies but also adversely impacting the water flow.” He further said that when half of the country is suffering from the water crisis, promoting the water-intensive thermal power plant isn’t prudent. This sentiment was voiced by the activists gathered from Karnataka, Meghalaya, Manipur, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, and many other parts of the country.

Priya Pillai, an activist from the Mahan Sangharsh Samiti which fought a battle against Essar Power to save pristine forests in MP, said that people, especially tribal, have already been displaced multiple times due to the thermal power plant projects. She gave an example of the people in Amelia village, who are on the verge of being displaced for the fifth time.

The day-long conference, which was organized by the Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA) and Public Advocacy Initiative for Rights and Values in India, (PAIRVI) mainly focused on the current status of the energy finance in India, draft 2017 National Energy Policy, the NPA crisis, increasing trend of bailouts for the corporates in the energy sector, and the issues related to livelihoods, displacement, forest, water Pollutions, health and land grabbing.

Contact: 

Rajesh Kumar (CFA): +91 81300 30411

Soumya Dutta (PAIRVI): +91 92137 63756

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