Guwahati, Tuesday, February 12, 2019
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Mismanagement hits APDCL
AJIT PATOWARY
 GUWAHATI, Feb 11 - The Assam Power Distribution Company Ltd (APDCL) is now allegedly a house in chaos and it is also heading to a financial crisis, contrary to the year-on-year surplus of around Rs 1,000 crore it earned last fiscal compared to the previous fiscal. The chaos has allegedly resulted from the lack of professionalism in the higher echelon of the power utility’s administration, together with the lack of norms in its personnel department, while its gradual journey to emerge as a loss-making entity is attributed to its short collections against the power tariff bills it is serving on its consumers.

Significantly, the post of the Member Technical has now been obliterated from the power utility. This post assumed importance as it was manned by the highly experienced power engineers and hence in arriving at crucial decisions concerning technical matters, the Member Technical always played a vital role.

Again, there is the allegation of a non-technical officer being authorised to head the power utility as its Managing Director. This officer is enjoying a good rapport with those in the corridor of power in Dispur. The senior most engineers of the power utility, who are holding the posts of Chief General Managers, have virtually been rendered powerless by the Government policy of divesting all the authorities in the hands of the non-technical officers. This has again posed serious operation-related problems in the power utility.

Moreover, there is a trend in the personnel department to defy all rules and regulations. In this respect, the example of those IT wing engineers of the power utility, who are included in the same service cadre as electrical and mechanical engineers, despite their not being qualified  to work as power engineers on electrical lines and equipment, can be cited. If this trend continues, the number of electrical accidents may increase in the State, said sources in the know of the developments in the State’s power sector.

Again, it is alleged that an officer in the personnel department of this State sector power utility could rise from the post a mere typist to that of the General Manager by managing his bosses. He could secure seven promotions in his career. The order of the Chairman to ascertain his eligibility for the post of General Manager was deflated and he was appointed a General Manager with the approval of the personnel department allegedly when the Chairman was out of station. This was done less than a week’s time prior to this officer’s going on superannuation.

In matters of revenue, it is alleged that many consumers are not readily coming out to clear their dues, which can be described, in a way, as power theft by backdoor, said the sources. It is gathered that during January this year, the power utility failed to collect over Rs 40 crore less against its billed tariff amount of Rs 383 crore. The APDCL could collect only Rs 339 crore last month.

The power utility requires over Rs 380 crore per month to clear the bills against its purchased power (around Rs 320 crore), to pay its employees and officers (around Rs 30 crore) and to clear the operation and maintenance cost (around Rs 30 crore). It needs to earn around Rs 400 crore in a month on an average to be in good health. However, for the last several months of the current financial year, the power utility falls short to achieve the above target.

State Government recently appointed nine non-executive directors to the Board of Directors of the APDCL, Assam Electric Grid Corporation Ltd, and Assam Power Generation Corporation Ltd. All of these directors do not have any knowledge of the power sector and are all political persons. These directors are non-executive and are supposed to be part-time appointees, entitled only to the honorarium for attending board meetings.

But, it is alleged that some of these part-time directors are now demanding office space in the Bijulee Bhawan, which is already short of space to accommodate the employees of the three power utilities. Moreover, they are demanding dedicated vehicles. Such behaviours of some of the new directors may not augur well for the power utilities in the days to come.

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