Policy makers, energy experts and stakeholders stressed the need to take effective measures to make India self-reliant in the energy sector so that the people get ‘energy justice’, as envisioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
At the ‘Energy Conclave’, organised by NewsX channel and The Sunday Guardian in the capital on Wednesday, the speakers were unanimous that India should move towards ‘clean energy’ regime.
While addressing the gathering, Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister of Road Transport & Highways, Shipping and Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation, dwelt at length the challenges faced by the economy due to the import of crude oil and stressed how ethanol can dominate the Indian fuel industry in the future.
Gadkari highlighted the new projects initiated by his ministry including the plan for construction of a Yamuna riverfront. Gadkari also promised that Ganga would be cleaner by March 2019. He said: “My aim is to create an ethanol-based economy of Rs 2 lakh crore. If ethanol is replaced with other conventional fuel options, it will reduce pollution. Ethanol will be cheaper and bring new solutions to the energy sector.” Gadkari shared about how buses in Nagpur are being run on ethanol.
Speaking about the new road projects, Gadkari said: “The government is planning to make Axis Control Express Highway which will connect Delhi-Mumbai and reduce travel time between the two cities to 12-13 hours.”
He said: “We are working on reducing the import of energy. One day, the country will stop importing the fuel and ethanol-based energy will cater to the energy needs in India.” The minister said that manufacturers like Bajaj and TVS are all ready for ethanol-based vehicles.
“The reason for inflation is the crude oil prices and it’s time to go for an option which is indigenous. GST on ethanol has already been reduced to 5% from 18%,” Gadkari said, adding “we have awarded contracts worth Rs 10 lakh crore and the media has all the rights to make headlines if they find anything wrong in the process.”
Asked about his reaction to Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s hug and wink, Gadkari said: “Congress has been a winking party.” Speaking about the performance of the Narendra Modi government, Gadkari said: “We are being proved at least 5 times better than the UPA government. We have the vision, transparency and we are committed to deliver time-bound development.”
The minister shared that he wants to make an all-season ‘Char Dham Road’, 35-km Yamuna riverfront and garden. He also said that he wants to develop waterways as new transport option to Agra, which will take only 15 minutes to reach Agra. Gadkari said that a ring road is being constructed in Delhi which will divert the traffic from nearby states and people travelling to Rajasthan, Punjab and other states will not require to enter the city.
Ajay Girhotra, Managing Director AG Dauters, said: “We need to empower India through green and sustainable projects. We need to convert our waste to energy and we have been working to convert waste water to drinking water in several projects. Moreover, if we can convert our waste from farm products, every village in India can generate its own fuel and drinking water.”
He further added that by 2024, the Ghazipur landfill, which caters to half of Delhi’s waste, would not be there as the waste from there would be used to generate energy and 80% of Delhi’s power demand can be met by using the energy generated from this particular landfill alone.
Siddharth Nath Singh, Health Minister of Uttar Pradesh, cited how as a health minister he faced a challenge to provide clean water in a particular area (Sonbhadra) in Uttar Pradesh as the river water there had been polluted due to the mining activities.
He also talked about the Solar Power Policy that the Yogi government in Uttar Pradesh is working on. “We are going to implement the policy in the Bundelkhand and Poorvanchal areas of UP, and this solar power will help us come out of the power shortage that we are currently facing.”
He also talked about a scheme in the health care sector where every health centre in UP would be having solar panels fitted to generate its own electricity that would provide power to the health centres in the state, while the surplus power would be transferred to the grid.
Energy expert Vineet Goyanka stressed on the need of removing subsidy from oil and gas. He said: “The per capita demand of energy in India is increasing and we must plan accordingly to meet the demand. On the price rise of fossil fuel, Goynaka said: “Dynamics will be changed soon.”
Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi, who was present as panelist in a session opposite BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi, countered the BJP’s claim of providing welfare schemes like Ujjwala Yojana. Chaturvedi said: “BJP is just giving numbers on Ujjwala and toilets, but in reality, the gas cylinder refill has become burden for the poor women.” On the other hand, Lekhi blamed the Congress for keeping the country underdeveloped for seven decades. She said: “The Ujjwala scheme has benefitted the poor women and it has given them self-esteem.”
Rajeshwaran Dandapani of Telesto Energy said that gas is the cleanest, greenest and the cheapest fuel and it is 40% more efficient than coal. The capital investment needed to start gas distribution is high and hence we need more private players in the field.
Dr Govind Kelkar, who is an expert on energy and gender, speaking on the Ujjawala scheme of the government, said that it is the largest gender-oriented programme of the country. “It has become a tool of women empowerment. Now women get more leisure time to do things that they want to do, to rest, to enjoy their leisure time. Entitlement of a house working woman is being recognised,” she said.
Speaking at the concluding session, Dharmendra Pradhan, Union Minister of Petroleum & Natural Gas and Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, said India would see a lot of activities in the energy sector in the coming years. “We are expecting an investment of about $300 billion in the next 10 years in the energy sector. At present, India is number three consumer and soon it will become number one,” the minister said.
Pradhan expressed hope that there would be consensus on bringing petroleum under the purview of GST. He said providing clean energy is his government’s commitment as well as responsibility. Talking about his home state Odisha, he said the state is moving towards social and political change and very soon BJP would become number one party in the state.