India is likely to offer power to Bangladesh from the 726.6-MW ONGC Tripura Power Company (OTPC), said sources.

Bangladesh has long been demanding a share of the electricity from OTPC’s gas based facility at Palatana, in return of its goodwill gesture to allow transportation of heavy power gears, through her territories, to the land-locked Tripura.

Bangladesh’s demand has strong support of Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar. OTPC – promoted by ONGC, IL&FS and Tripura Government – is also in favour of the proposal.

It has been proposed that electricity can be traded through Monarchak, which is approximately 20 km from Palatana and only 4 km from Comilla in Bangladesh.

Though this issue figured in the initial talks between the two countries, the proposal was later put on the back burner as India preferred to supply up to 500 MW electricity, through the West Bengal border.

Of this, 250 MW will be sourced from NTPC Ltd at a regulated tariff. Bangladesh can procure an additional 250 MW from the open market. Both the countries are scheduled to implement a common grid through Bherama in Murshidabad district in West Bengal by July.

A sore point

Though NTPC’s coal-based generation should be cheaper for Bangladesh, Dhaka was unhappy about the non-availability of power from OTPC.

The reasons are not difficult to fathom. The North Eastern part of Bangladesh, bordering Tripura, suffers from an acute power crisis. Cross-border power sales through West Bengal cannot meet this demand due to inadequate grid network in Bangladesh.

Moreover, the transhipment of power gears (from Ashugunj port in Bangladesh to Palatana in Tripura) required change in road alignment leading to land acquisition and displacement of people in Bangladesh. The political leadership in Dhaka obtained public cooperation by promising them electricity from OTPC.

Tripura demand

Given the failure on the Teesta water accord, any volte-face by the Indian Government on OTPC is bound cost the Sheikh Hasina Government dearly in an election year.

Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar agrees with Dhaka’s stand.

“We don’t understand why it’s not happening. Bangladesh extended unstinted support in making OTPC a reality. Now they want to buy a part of the power from the project. Since we already have a power sales agreement with Dhaka, there shouldn’t be any hindrance in allowing this,” he said.

Tripura made a strong representation to President Pranab Mukherjee in this regard during his two-day visit to Agartala recently. “I am going to write to the Prime Minister soon,” Sarkar told Business Line.

The “exemplary support” of Bangladesh in implementing OTPC and the need to strengthen the Indo-Bangladesh cooperation received appreciation from the President during the inauguration of the project on June 21.

“The announcement to sell electricity through Tripura may be round the corner,” said a source.

According to him, the opposition from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Teesta water had embarrassed the Union Government. It was high time India did something to lift the spirit of bilateral relationship, he said.

(This article was published on June 24, 2013)
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