Association of Power Producers director general Ashok Khurana said about 24,000 MW of gas-based power plants are stranded due to gas shortage, adding that the power sector too was a priority sector and needs to be accorded same status as fertiliser
With power plants, involving investments of Rs1,00,000 crore facing closure due to shortage of natural gas, oil minister M Veerappa Moily on Wednesday said he will move a note for the consideration of high-powered ministerial group to change priority of allocation of the fuel as well as pooling price of imported and domestic gas.
The Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) had previously accorded top priority to urea-manufacturing fertiliser plants for receipt of natural gas from Reliance Industries’ (RIL) eastern offshore KG-D6 fields. LPG extraction units were placed second on the list and power plants were given third priority.
This priority list essentially meant that when KG-D6 output started to fall, requirement of top priority customers in the fertiliser and LPG sectors was first met and remaining gas was pro-rata supplied to power plants.
With KG-D6 output falling to about 17 million metric standard cubic meters per day (mmscmd) this month, there is no gas now left for power plants after meeting requirement of fertiliser and LPG sector.
Heads of leading private power producers including Anil Ambani of Reliance Power, GM Rao of GMR Group, G V K Reddy of GVK Group and Madhusudhan Rao of Lanco, first met Moily and the Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia to state that 15,000 MW of gas-based plants are getting gas supplies from domestic fields at less than 10% of their operating capacity, making their operations unsustainable and unviable. In addition, 8700 MW of new gas-based capacities are stranded with no gas available for commissioning of their plants. Moily said the power producers suggested according power and fertiliser equal priority so that the current available gas is equally distributed among them.
Also, they suggested averaging the price of domestic gas with costlier imported gas to make fuel affordable for power plants. They also wanted augmenting the domestic supply by diverting 6 mmscmd of gas being supplied to non-core sector and reserving the new finds totalling 10 mmscmd for the power sector.
“Our ministry has to go by the decision of the EGoM regarding allocation and priority for supply of gas. One way to change the same is to convene a meeting of EGoM. I have agreed to convene the EGoM meeting to consider the issues raised by them,” he told reporters after the meeting.
Association of Power Producers director general Ashok Khurana said about 24,000 MW of gas-based power plants are stranded due to gas shortage. Khurana, who was part of the delegation that met Moily, said the power sector too was a priority sector and needs to be accorded same status as fertiliser.
More than two dozen power plants were allocated over 30 mmscmd of gas from KG-D6. These plants faced pro-rata cut in supplies when KG-D6 production started to dip in second half of 2010.
RTI documents procured by activists reveal that the high-profile BVG Kshitij engaged in collection and disposal of municipal solid waste management in the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation, has manipulated attendance records of waste pickers for paying lower wages
BVG Kshitij Waste Management Services Pvt Ltd has been hired by the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) to carry out the work of door-to-door collection, segregation and transportation of municipal solid waste in its B and C wards for a period of five years from January 2012 to December 2016. The company employs waste pickers affiliated to the local NGO, Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat (KKPKP).
As per the rules for sweepers and scavengers and belled cart workmen in municipal corporation limits, the daily wage structure is: 1 July 2012 to 31 December 2012: Rs240.52 per day (Rs6,253.75 per month); 1 January 2013 to 30 June 2013: Rs 254.06 per day (Rs6,605.50 per month). Besides these minimum wages, they are entitled to statutory benefits like House Rent Allowance @ 5% of their minimum wages, as well as employer’s PF and ESI contribution @ 12% of minimum wages and 4.75% of gross wages, respectively.
The waste collection work in Wards B and C is to be undertaken with deployment of 313 helpers on the waste collection vehicles, each of them operating for 30 or 31 days per month. “Hence, the total number of worker days required for B and C wards as per the agreement is 9,390 and 9,703 respectively”, states Lakshmi Narayan, general secretary of KKPKP.
However, since the last four months, KKPKP has repeatedly brought to the notice of the PCMC authorities that workers under the waste collection contractors in PCMC were being paid wages between Rs50 and Rs100 per day instead of Rs254 stipulated under the Minimum Wages Act. While the PCMC attendance records maintained at the ward level shows that workers are being paid the right amount of Rs254 per day, the worker days attendance and wage register maintained by BVG showed a major discrepancy. In the sample taken by the labour department of 70 workers, the record showed that while all of them had worked between 28 to 30 or 31 days as per the PCMC record, the BVG record showed that they worked only between 11-18 days. Salaries were given as per the BVG record which therefore came to around an abysmal Rs50 to Rs100 per day.
To further prove this discrepancy by BVG, the KKPKP invoked the Right to Information (RTI) Act. A sample of three months’ attendance/ operation record procured by Moneylife from KKPKP shows that in April 2012, the PCMC attendance record is 7,674 worker days whereas BVG records show it as 4,780 worker days. In May 2012, PCMC records attendance of 7,903 workers days for the month as per its wage records while BVG’s document shows 4,759. In August 2012, the PCMC records attendance of 8,312 worker days as per its daily attendance/operation records while BVG’s documents shows only 4,739.
Harshad Barde, member of KKPKP is the one who has systematically and painstakingly collated information under the RTI Act. Explaining how BVG managed to fudge the records, Barde states, “The attendance records kept by PCMC show very low absenteeism of workers. But the records maintained for payment of minimum wages to the workers under the Minimum Wages Act show much lower worker attendance. The discrepancy between the two attendance records is around 4,000 man days of work per month for around 14 months. The actual payment to workers has been done on the basis of falsified attendance records showing that each of them has worked for around 10-12 days per month to make the wages correspond, while they have actually worked for a full month.”
Narayan states that, “Preliminary calculations reveal that the discrepancy in payment made to all wastepickers for the past 14 months will be to the tune of Rs3,20,00,000. This does not include the amounts rightfully due to drivers and other employees of the contractors. The wages calculated as per actual days of work attended are as low as Rs30 for an eight-hour work day.”
KKPKP brought this matter to the notice of the Labour Department, Pune, which corroborated the complaints in its Inspection carried out on 22 February 2013. In the presence of the Labour Inspector, PCMC authorities committed to withholding payment to BVG Kshitij till they verified the actual wages paid out to the workers, says Narayan.
Ratnadeep Hendre, Additional Labour Commissioner, observed that the PCMC being the principal employer, should look into the matter of ensuring due payments to workers and that claims should be filed by all waste pickers for unpaid dues since 1 January 2012. The PCMC though has yet to take any action.
Informs Narayan about the labour department’s inspection, “Attendance records maintained by the PCMC at the ward level for the month of February were compared with the wage register of the BVG and the attendance records of workers purported there. This was done in the presence of officials from the Health Department and the Labour Department of the PCMC. The discrepancies are glaring. Information compiled for 70 workers (data for all wards was not available) show discrepancies of between 10 and 23 days in a 28 day month per worker with an amount of between Rs2,500 and Rs5,800 owed to each of them for just the month of February!”
With the PCMC mum on this matter, over 150 waste pickers of KKPKP peacefully protested against this injustice early this week. It has made the following demands to the PCMC:
The raids come close on the heels of the DMK pulling out of the Congress-led UPA alliance and its five ministers resigning from the Union cabinet
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday carried out searches at 19 places across Tamil Nadu, including the residence of DMK chief M Karunanidhi’s son MK Stalin in Chennai in a case of alleged tax evasion of imported cars.
The CBI team reached the house of Stalin in Chennai, who is alleged to be one of the beneficiaries of importing foreign cars, agency officials said.
The raids come close on the heels of the DMK pulling out of the Congress-led UPA alliance and its five ministers resigning from the Union cabinet.
An FIR (first information report) was registered on Wednesday against one senior Intelligence Officer of Directorate of Revenue Murganandam and two others for allegedly abusing their official position by not taking any action when the import of foreign cars, including some limousines, was made.
According to the FIR, the officials have allegedly entered into a criminal conspiracy with unknown people and caused a loss of Rs20 crore to the exchequer.
One of the imported cars is being used by Stalin’s son, officials said, adding after further investigation names of beneficiaries of importing the car would be included in the FIR.
The CBI said that the FIR was registered on the basis of a “source information” as the agency had been probing the leads in the case for quite some time.
Raids were going on at other places including a business house, house of an owner of a medical college and others, the sources said.
Stalin dubbed the CBI raid as a “political vendetta” and said he would face the case legally.
“I am not aware of the reasons for the raid. We will face the case legally,” 60-year old Stalin, considered the political heir of Karunanidhi, told media persons in Chennai.
As the news of CBI raids spread, senior DMK leaders and a large number of party supporters gathered at the residence of Stalin.
Meanwhile, Union finance minister P Chidambaram said that he strongly disapprove of the CBI action on DMK leader Stalin.
Chidambaram also added that whatever may be the reason, he is afraid that it may bound to be misunderstood. Chidambaram stated that he had conveyed his view to the minister in-charge.