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CAG Performance Audit on the Allocation of Coal Blocks

August 17th, 2012 No comments

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) released a Performance Audit of Allocation of Coal Blocks and Augmentation of Coal Production, on August 17, 2012.  Some of the main findings and recommendations of the report are highlighted below:

  • There were no criteria for allocating coal blocks for captive mining till 1993.  The process of bringing in transparency and objectivity began in January 2004.  However, the process has experienced delays and had yet to materialise as of February 2012.
  • In the intervening period, 194 coal blocks with geological reserves of 44,440 million tonnes were allocated to private and government parties until March 31, 2011.  The report finds that the benefit to private allottees has been estimated at Rs 1.86 lakh crore for Opencast mines.  The report states that the government could have tapped some of this financial benefit by expediting the decision on competitive bidding for allocation of coal blocks.
  • The rate of increase in production of coal by Coal India Limited (CIL) during the 11th Plan period remained below the target set by the Planning Commission.  Capacity addition projects were delayed due to the lack of coordination of government agencies involved in statutory clearances and land acquisition.  There were mismatches in excavation and transportation capacities of mines, and suboptimal use of Heavy Earth Moving Machinery.
  • The CAG recommends that Ministry of Coal (MOC) should work out modalities to implement the procedure of allocation of coal blocks for captive mining through competitive bidding.
  • The CAG recommends that the MOC should constitute an empowered group along the lines of Foreign Investment Promotion Board as a single window mechanism for granting clearances, with representatives from central nodal ministries and state governments.

A one-page summary of the main findings and recommendations can be accessed here.  The full report can be accessed on the CAG website.

Debt restructuring plan for power distribution companies

July 27th, 2012 2 comments

Reports suggest that a debt restructuring plan is being prepared for power distribution companies (discoms) in seven states – Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh.  According to some estimates, the combined outstanding debt for discoms is Rs 2 lakh crore.  Discoms have been facing heavy losses.  According to a Planning Commission Report, the cost of supplying electricity increased at a rate of 7.4 per cent annually between 1998-99 and 2009-10.  The average tariff has also increased at an annual rate of 7.1 per cent over the same period.  However, the report shows that the average tariff per unit of electricity has consistently been much lower than average cost of supply per unit.  Between 2007-08 and 2011-12, the gap between average cost and average tariff per unit of electricity was between 20 and 30 per cent of costs.

Average cost and average tariff per unit of electricity (Rs per kWh)

Year

Unit cost

Average tariff per unit

Gap between cost and tariff

Gap as percentage of unit cost

2007-08

4.04

3.06

0.98

24%

2008-09

4.6

3.26

1.34

29%

2009-10

4.76

3.33

1.43

30%

2010-11

4.84

3.57

1.27

26%

2011-12

4.87

3.8

1.07

22%

Source: “Annual Report 2011-12 on the Working of State Power Utilities and Electricity Departments”, Planning Commission

State discoms have been losing money due to higher costs than revenues, as well as high transmission and distribution (T&D) losses.  The commercial losses for discoms in India (after including subsidies) increased from Rs 16,666 crore in 2007-08 to Rs 37,836 crore in 2011-12.

Reports suggest that the restructuring plan being prepared will be worth Rs 1.2 lakh crore in short-term liabilities.  Half of the proposed amount would be issued as bonds by the discoms, backed by a state government guarantee.  Banks and financial institutions would reschedule the remaining Rs 60,000 crore of debt, with a moratorium of three years on payment of the principal amount.  State governments that adopt the financial restructuring plan would not recover any loans given to discoms before they start showing profits.

Under a proposed transition finance mechanism, the central government would reimburse 25 per cent of the principal amount of bonds to states that fully implement the plan.  Also, states that achieve a reduction in T&D losses above a targeted level in three years may be given grants.  Newspaper reports also suggest that states will have to prepare plans for eliminating the gap between the average cost and average tariff per unit of electricity.

Petrol price hiked by over Rs 7 per litre

May 24th, 2012 2 comments

Government owned Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) raised the price of petrol by Rs 6.28 per litre on May 23, 2012.  After the inclusion of local taxes, this price hike amounts to an increase of Rs 7.54 per litre in Delhi. 

India met 76 per cent of its total petroleum requirement in 2011-12 through imports.  Petrol prices have officially been decontrolled since June 2010.  However, it has been argued by experts that prices of petroleum products have not been increased sufficiently in order to pass on cost increases to consumers.  The inability to pass on international crude prices to consumers has affected OMCs more in recent months due to the depreciating rupee, which has further increased their losses.  The total under recoveries faced by OMCs for diesel, PDS kerosene and domestic LPG for 2011-12 stands at Rs 138,541 crore.  It was recently announced that the OMCs will receive Rs 38,500 crore from the Ministry of Finance to partially compensate for the high under recoveries.

The prices of diesel, LPG and kerosene, which are responsible for the large under recoveries, are unchanged.  Experts suggest that the price hike would have a limited impact on inflation, since petrol has a weightage of around 1 per cent on the Wholesale Price Index, whereas diesel has a weightage of around 4.7 per cent.  The petrol price hike is unlikely to have an impact on the fiscal deficit, since petrol prices are technically deregulated.  Reports suggest that a panel of ministers is due to meet on Friday to discuss diesel, kerosene and LPG prices.

In a 2010 report, the Expert Group on “A Viable and Sustainable System of Pricing of Petroleum Products” (Kelkar Committee) observed that given India’s dependence on imports and rising oil prices, domestic prices of petroleum products must match international prices.  It stated that price controls on diesel and petroleum in particular had resulted in major imbalances in consumption patterns across the country.  This had also led to the exit of private sector oil marketing companies from the market, and affected domestic competition.  Its recommendations included the following:

  • Since petrol and diesel are both items of final consumption, their prices should be market determined at both the refinery gate and the retail level.
  • An additional excise duty should be levied on diesel cars.
  • A transparent and effective distribution system for PDS kerosene and domestic LPG should be ensured through UID.
  • Price of kerosene and domestic LPG should be increased by Rs 6/litre and Rs 100 per cylinder respectively.  The prices should be periodically revised based on growth in per capita agricultural GDP (for kerosene) and rising per capita income (LPG).

Reports suggest that a partial rollback of petrol prices might be considered soon.

 

Power producers refuse to sign supply agreements with Coal India

May 22nd, 2012 No comments

There has been no resolution so far to the issue of assured fuel supply from Coal India Limited (CIL) to power producers.  According to reports, while CIL released a model supply agreement in April 2012, so far only around 13 Fuel Supply Agreements (FSAs) have been signed.  Originally around 50 power units were expected to sign FSAs with CIL.  Power producers have objected to the model FSA released by CIL, particularly its force majeure provisions and the dilution of financial penalties in case of lower than contracted supply.

Background

The adverse power supply situation has attracted greater attention in the past few months.  According to Central Electricity Authority’s data, the gap between peak demand and peak supply of power in March 2012 was 11 per cent.  The decreasing availability of fuel has emerged as a critical component of the worsening power supply situation.  As of March 31, 2012, there were 32 critical thermal power stations that had a coal stock of less than 7 days.  The gap between demand and supply of coal in the past three years is highlighted below:

Table 1: Coal demand/Supply gap (In millions of tonnes)

2009-10

2010-11

2011-12

Demand

604

656

696

Supply

514

523

535

Gap

90

133

161

Source: PIB News Release dated May 7, 2012

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Summary of the President’s Address to Parliament, 2012

March 12th, 2012 1 comment

The President addressed the Parliament on 12 March 2012.  Below are some items from the agenda of the central government as outlined in the speech.

Legislation

  • A Bill to eliminate manual scavenging and insanitary latrines shall be introduced in Parliament.
  • New legislation is being considered for persons with disabilities, in order to replace the existing Act.
  • A Bill to provide for a uniform regulatory environment to protect consumer interests, enable speedy adjudication and ensure growth of the real estate sector shall be introduced.
  • A Bill to create a Civil Aviation Authority to ensure safe and affordable air services will be introduced this year.
  • The government is working on legislation for safeguarding and promoting the livelihoods of street vendors.
  • Amendments shall be made to the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act to prohibit employment of children less than 14 years of age.
  • Government will aim for early enactment of the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill.

Workforce Development

  • 1500 new Industrial Training Institutes and 5000 Skill Development Centres shall be set up.  Skill training will be provided to 85 lakh people during 2012-13 and to 800 lakh people during the 12th Plan.
  • A National Mission for Teachers shall be established to improve teacher education and faculty development .
  • The National Urban Livelihoods Mission shall be launched for large-scale skill upgradation, entrepreneurship development and providing wage employment and self-employment opportunities.
  • The expenditure on Research & Development shall be increased from 1 percent to 2 percent of GDP.
  • A Higher Education Credit Guarantee Authority shall be set up in order to provide limited credit guarantees through risk pooling for educational loans.

Health

  • The government will increase national Plan and Non-Plan public expenditure on health to 2.5 percent of GDP by the end of the 12th Plan.
  • The National Rural Health Mission will be converted to a National Health Mission during the 12th Plan, which will also cover urban areas.  Around 7 crore families will be provided health insurance cover under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana by the end of the 12th Plan.
  • A Multi-sectoral Nutrition Programme will be launched in 200 districts for maternal and child nutrition needs.
  • A Department for Disability Affairs and the National Council for Senior Citizens shall be set up.

Economy

  • Steps will be taken to reduce the gap of 10 million hectares between irrigation potential created and realized.
  • A scheme for Minimum Support Price for minor forest produce is being considered.
  • A roadmap to double merchandise exports to US$ 500 billion by 2013-14 has been prepared.
  • Public sector banks shall be recapitalized to maintain their financial health.
  • A scheme for promotion of the capital goods industry will be launched during the 12th Plan.
  • Rs 17,500 crore shall be provided to the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor for infrastructure projects.
  • The National Electricity Fund shall be set up to provide interest subsidy on loans disbursed to State Power Utilities.
  • Installed capacity of nuclear plants shall be increased to 10,080 MW from 4,780 MW by the end of the 12th Plan.

 

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President’s Addresses to Parliament since the beginning of UPA II

March 12th, 2012 No comments

The President addressed the Parliament after the 2009 Lok Sabha Elections on 4th June 2009.  She also addressed Parliament on 22nd February 2010, as well as on 21st February 2011.  The tables below highlight some items from the agenda of the central government as outlined in these speeches, as well as the initiatives undertaken with respect to these agenda items.

Table 1: Some Items from the President’s Address to Parliament on 4th June 2009

Agenda Items outlined in the President’s Speech Current Status
Establishment of National Counter-Terrorism Centre Proposed launch of NCTC in March 2011 on hold
Enactment of legislation for prevention of communal violence Communal Violence Bill 2005 pending in Parliament. New bill drafted by NAC but not introduced in Parliament
Unique Identity Card scheme to be implemented in three years Unique Identification Authority of India created under Planning Commission on 28 January 2009.  Bill to give statutory status pending in Parliament
Establishment of a regulator for the pension sector Bill introduced in Lok Sabha on 24 March 2011
Convergence of NREGA with other programs; expansion of works permitted; independent monitoring and grievance redressal
Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana to cover all families below the poverty line in five years
Enactment of Right to Free and Compulsory Education Bill Bill passed in 2009 and brought into force on 1 April 2009
Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan to universalize access to secondary education Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan launched in March 2009
National Mission for Female Literacy to make every woman literate in five years National Literacy Mission recast in 2009 to focus on female literacy
Construction of 1.2 crore rural houses under Indira Awas Yojana in five years
Introduction of Rajiv Awas Yojana for slum dwellers and urban poor Phase I approved by Cabinet on 2 June 2011
Enactment of National Food Security Act Introduced in Lok Sabha on 22 December 2011
Enactment of Amendment Bill to Land Acquisition Act and Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill 2011 introduced in Lok Sabha on 7 September 2011
Enactment of Women’s Reservation Bill Passed by Rajya Sabha, pending in Lok Sabha
Constitutional Amendment for 50 percent reservation for women in panchayats and urban local bodies Two Bills introduced in Lok Sabha in November 2009; both pending in Parliament
Amendment of RTI to provide for disclosure by government in all non-strategic areas
Model Public Services Law to be drawn up in consultation with states Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievance Bill,     2011 introduced in Lok Sabha on 20 December 2011
Introduction of Goods and Services Tax Constitutional Amendment Bill introduced in Lok Sabha on 22 March 2011
National Council for Human Resources in Health Introduced in Rajya Sabha on 22 December 2011
National Council for Higher Education Bill introduced in Rajya Sabha on 28 December 2011

*Note: Blank cells indicate that PRS has not been able to find official information in the public domain.

Table 2: Some Items from the President’s speech to Parliament on 22nd February 2010

Agenda Items outlined in the President’s Speech Current Status
Introduction of legislation to ensure food security Introduced in Lok Sabha on 22 December 2011
Rural teledensity of 40 percent by 2014 Rural teledensity of 33% as of February 2011
Introduction of Rajiv Awas Yojana for urban poor and slum dwellers Phase I approved by Cabinet on 2 June 2011
Disposal of remaining claims under the Scheduled Tribes  and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act
Introduction of amendment to the Wakf Act Passed by Lok Sabha; pending in Rajya Sabha
Enactment of Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill, 2005 Pending in Rajya Sabha since 2005
Enactment of Women’s Reservation Bill Passed by Rajya Sabha; pending in Lok Sabha
Constitutional amendments for 50 percent reservation for women in panchayats and urban local bodies Two Bills introduced in Lok Sabha in November 2009; both pending in Parliament
Establishment of National Council for Higher Education and Research Higher Education and Research Bill, 2011 introduced in Rajya Sabha on 28 December 2011
Legislation for facilitating participation of foreign academic institutions in the education sector Foreign Educational Institutions Bill, 2010 introduced in Lok Sabha on 3 May 2010
Voting rights for Indian citizens living abroad Bill passed.  NRIs can vote at the place of residence that is mentioned in their passport

Table 3: Some Items from the President’s speech to Parliament on 21st February 2011

Agenda Items outlined in the President’s Speech Current Status
Enactment of Food Security Law Introduced in Lok Sabha on 22 December 2011
Whistleblower Bill Bill passed by Lok Sabha; pending in Rajya Sabha
Enactment of Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill Introduced in Lok Sabha on 1 December 2010
Enactment of new Mines and Minerals Bill Introduced in Lok Sabha on 12 December 2011
Rural teledensity of 40 percent by 2014 Rural teledensity of 33% as of February 2011
Construction of 1.2 crore rural houses during 2009-14
Enactment of Women’s Reservation Bill Passed by Rajya Sabha; pending in Lok Sabha
Introduction of Bill regarding protection of children from sexual offences Introduced in Rajya Sabha on 23 March 2011
Introduction of Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill Not introduced till date
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