News Wrap


India’s power sector investment would be lull in the 13th Five Year Plan period (2017-2022). The 12th plan ends in 2017, with capacity addition and capital investment in the power sector almost empty. Since 2013-14, capacity addition has been slowing down, as less than 40% of the target was met. Supply of local gas supply dwindled, coal linkages with state monopoly Coal India remained unfulfilled, and litigations clouded captive coal allocations. In 2014-15 against the target of 14988 mw till March 2015, so far about 6500 mw capacity has been added. The Union Government of India is aiming to auction about 40 million tons of coal to the power sector, and plans to begin at least 28000 mw of coal fired plants. There is no new capacity coming till 2017, as all these projects are stuck, and awaiting coal block allocation, after mines were lost owing to a Supreme Court judgement. Power projects that may be allotted in 2015-16, would be commissioned only after 2019, as there are scarcely any takers. Two UMPPs in Tamil Nadu and Odisha that the government bid out, found no takers except state owned companies like NTPC and NHPC. Citing regulatory issues in the bid document, private players pulled out of the bid. Major deals in the power sector in 2014, involved only transfer of equity and debt, viz Adani Power acquiring a 1200 mw Udupi Plant from Lanco Infrastructure for Rs 6000 cr, and another 600 mw Korba West Power Plant from Avantha Group, Tata Power acquired a 540 mw thermal plant from Ideal Energy for an estimated Rs 3500 cr. Power demand is growing up, and the ‘24 × 7 power for all’ remains a dream.

The Power Grid Corporation is already implementing projects worth Rs 1,30,000 crore, and deadlines for several crucial transmission lines connecting power surplus regions to power deficit regions, have been extended by six to thirty months. Recently the government nominated state-run Power Grid Corporation to implement eight transmission projects, worth Rs 36,000 crore, ‘‘under compressed time schedule’’, instead of inviting competitive bids.

Killings by Bodo Militants
End of December 2014, witnessed suspected Bodo militants killing 90 people, mainly tribals, including 20 children and 25 women, in a series of attacks at four places, in Sonitpur and Kokrajhar districts of Assam. Fifty others were also injured in the attack unleashed by heavily armed militants, reportedly belonging to the Songbijit faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) that is opposed to the peace talks. Manas National Park, a popular tourist spot inhabited by many tribals, was closed for several weeks, in the wake of the killing by NDFB(S) terrorists. Curfew was clamped, para-military forces rushed in and army alerted in the affected areas. Two Bodos were killed when Adivasis burnt a number of houses belonging to the Bodo community in Kokrajhar district. Bodo militants fired at villagers and burnt houses in districts of Udalgiri and Chirang. Adivasis set ablaze over 60 huts at Lamabari and Udalgiri weekly market. Unstable wooden bridges and non-motorable roads have turned areas close to the Arunachal Pradesh border in Assam’s Sonitpur district into a safe zone for Bodo militants.

Islamists in Nigeria
More than 2000 people have died during 2014 in Nigeria, as the Islamists attempt to carve out a caliphate in the northeast. Echoing the mass abduction of over 200 school girls in Chibok town in April 2014, Boko Haram gunmen seized 185 people from a remote village near the town of Damboa in mid-December 2014. The army’s incompetence is outlined by the mass kidnapping. Boko Haram fighters have tanks, armoured personnel carriers, rocket propelled grenades, and other heavy weaponry. Nigerian soldiers regularly complain that they lack arms and ammunition to enter towns controlled by Boko Haram. Military units of Nigeria rarely venture out of their barracks, leaving groups of armed vigilantes and hunters, some riding into battle on bicycles, to bear the brunt of the fighting. Certain units have refused to patrol altoghter. To prevent husbands from being sent on ‘‘death missions’’ against the Islamist insurgents, army wives have barricaded a large number of bases. The Nigerian soldiers are not being given proper training, and they are not paid their entitled salaries. Those who die are buried in shallow graves, and their bodies are not returned to their families. Some senior army commanders in the corruption ridden Nigerian army, inflate the number of soldiers on their pay roll, allowing them to steal the salaries of legion of ghost soldiers. 54 Nigerian soldiers are facing the death penalty for refusing to fight Boko Haram militants, because they lacked sufficient weapons.

Vol. 47, No. 30, Feb 1 - 7, 2015