Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) has been instructed to freeze the tender procedures for the smart meter project which has been challenged by trade unions cutting across political lines.
The order to freeze the procedures was issued for the second time after the KSEB ignored a previous instruction by Minister for Electricity K Krishnankutty.
The latest order issued by the additional chief secretary (power) has directed the KSEB chairman and managing director to keep tendering of smart meters in abeyance until the state government takes a decision on the expert committee report.
The smart meter project had courted a controversy after all employees’ organisations of the KSEB raised objection to the TOTEX (total expenditure) mode recommended for the meter rollout. The employees' outfits had also proposed alternative modes of procurement. Though the government appointed an expert panel to study the proposals, the KSEB went ahead with tender procedures without waiting for the government’s decision on it. The Board was ordered to freeze the procedures after Minister K Krishnankutty held talks with the organisations on April 11. The KSEB, however, ignored it. Trade unions have alleged that the KSEB did not issue any formal order on freezing the tender even after the minister's directive. The second directive was issued on April 24 after trade unions, including the CPM-backed CITU and Congress-backed INTUC, complained to the minister.
The trade unions are of the view that the total expenditure mode will lead to privatisation of power distribution system in the state.
The KSEB planned to roll out the smart metres under the revamped distribution sector scheme (RDSS). Based on the plan, the KSEB had invited fresh bids for 37 lakh meters based on the standard bidding document issued by the Ministry of Power.
The minister had told the assembly that a consumerwill have to spend Rs 9,000 for installing the prepaid meter. It would also put an additional liability of Rs 7,830 crore on the KSEB. The consumer will have to pay the amount to be spent on the meter to the service provider in 93 months. It is estimated that, as per the current plan, a consumer who pays an electricity bill of Rs 350 will have to pay an additional Rs 150. The employees' association claim that this amount could be reduced significantly if the plan is changed.