Finance ministry pulled up for slashing power funds
MPs’ panel asks power ministry to use allocations as per original demand.
New Delhi: At a time when the Centre has given a commitment to provide electricity access to all households of the country and 24x7 uninterrupted power supply, a high-level parliamentary panel has pulled up the finance ministry for initiating budgetary cuts in the allocations to the power ministry. At the same time, the power ministry has been advised to use funds allotted to it as per their original demand so that targets are fulfilled.
The parliamentary committee on energy has noted that against Rs 22,770 crore sought by the power ministry for the forthcoming financial year (2017-18), the finance ministry allotted it only Rs 13,880 crore. The Centre had sought Rs 12,600 crore for its most prestigious scheme of rural electrification (Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana). However, it received only Rs 4,841 crore from the finance ministry for 2017-18.
Remarking on these severe cuts effected by the finance ministry on the demands put forth by the power ministry, the parliamentary panel has said that “these huge cuts appear neither logical nor justified”, especially when the “government is committed to provide electricity access to all households of the country and 24x7 uninterrupted power supply”.
The committee has said in its report, which was presented to Parliament last week, that it does understand the constraints of limited finance resources of the government, nonetheless an important sector like power should get adequate funds.
“At present, the power sector is the most crucial sector which is slowly but surely passing through a transition period of energy deficiency to energy sufficiency and universal electricity access,” the panel said in the report.
At the same time, the committee found that for the current fiscal also the power ministry had put forward a demand of Rs 31,519 crore, which was reduced to Rs 12,200 crore by the finance ministry. However, even this truncated allocation was reduced at the time of revised estimates to Rs 10,400 crore. Ultimately only a paltry Rs 7,260 crore was utilised till January 30, 2017.
This reduction of funds at the level of revised estimates shows that the power ministry was not prepared to use even the funds that was allotted to it. Seeing this trend, the panel felt that the budgetary cut by the power ministry was based on under-utilisation of funds for 2016-17.
The parliamentary panel in this light recommended to the finance ministry to allocate additional funds at the stage of revised estimates if the power ministry demands them. Simultaneously, the panel also suggested to the power ministry to try and use the funds allotted to it as per their original demand so that not only the funds are fully used but also the targets are achieved.