RAMESH PRASAD BHUSHAL
KATHMANDU: The Ministry of Energy has proposed the Finance Ministry to include an additional tax of Rs 1 on every packet of cement sold in the market which would be used especially for rural electrification.
"We have proposed to the Finance Ministry and are hopeful that this will be included in the coming budget," said Hariram Koirala, Secretary, Ministry of Energy.
The energy ministry sent a letter to the Finance Ministry today seeking support for rural electrification as it would be helpful to connect the rural community with electrification.
"We don't have adequate funds for rural electrification and the NEA is suffering from huge losses. We need extra source to focus on electricity development in rural areas and hopefully this idea would be materialised," added Koirala.
The Ministry had scrapped the Community Electrification Department at the Nepal Electricity Authority two years ago stating the lack of funds to operate and invest on rural electrification, which was criticised from the activists of rural community electrification.
The National Association of Community Electricity Users Nepal (NACEUN) is one of those demanding the establishment of separate independent body to focus on rural electrification, but they blame the government for turning a deaf ear to their demands.
"We have been demanding to formulate rural electrification policy, act, and governing board and fund but the government is not willing," said Dilli Prasad Ghimire, chairperson, NACEUN.
Ghimire added that the establishment of a separate fund will not work, but the government should establish a separate entity to look over.
Secretary Koirala said that the purpose of the fund is to help the rural communities and it could be extended in future. "This is a first step and we can move further in coming days," said Koirala.
Such kind of fund is not totally a new idea in the government, as some other ministries in the past have also established such funds for various purposes. The Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology has the environment protection fund where Rs 0.5 is charged as the pollution tax per liter of petroleum products.
Likewise, the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation has the forest conservation fund where Rs 5 per cubic feet of timber sold is deposited and the money collected is used for conservation proposes.
But the community electrification activists said that the rural electrification is not possible until the government removes the community electrification division from the NEA and establishes a separate entity.
"Community or rural electrification is nonprofit work, but NEA is business oriented and only focuses on big projects and economy. So rural electrification is only possible if government establishes a separate body to look over the issue," Ghimire added.