The Indian Railways’ move to buy cheaper power is likely to trigger off a political war between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Western Railway (WR) has written letters to the BJP-run Gujarat government to allow them to consume power at a cheaper rate — a major issue that has garnered much attention recently.
The arrangement with the Gujarat government may help the Railways procure cheap power for Mumbai
Power from Gujarat
Sources in the Railways said admitted that that they have already written to the Gujarat-run state power distributors. “They have, in principle, agreed to supply us with electricity. We are working out the details,” said a WR official, on condition of anonymity.
In the initial phase, they were looking at tying up with the Gujarat government for 50 Megawatt (Mw) of electricity, although officials said that they will gradually increase consumption from the government, which will provide them electricity at Rs 5 per unit. The Indian Railway is allowed to transfer electricity from one place to the other and this way, they can procure cheaper
electricity for Mumbai’s suburban trains.
The Indian Railways currently purchases electricity from the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Corporation Limited (MSEDCL) and Tata Power. WR officials added that although consumption of electricity from the two will remain, over a period of time it might come down. “We have asked the tariff authorities to subsidise and reduce electricity fares as even we are running suburban trains at subsidised rates,” said another WR official. Experts claim that a reduction in power consumption from state run utilities and distributors will mean losses, especially if it involves the Indian Railways.
The rising cost of electricity
Over the past two financial years, the Railways’ expenditure on electricity — which is 25 per cent of the total expenditure after spending on manpower — has shot up drastically. Hemant Kumar, general manager, WR said, “There has been an increase in tariffs by 44.42 per cent for Tata Power and 36.01 per cent for MSEDCL over the last two years.”