SELCO has become synonymous with solar-powered lighting solutions. In a little over 15 years, it has touched over half a million people by installing solar lights in more than 120,000 households and over 2,000 institutions and micro-enterprises. Harish H. Hande, Managing Director and co-founder, SELCO India, says under the National Solar Mission, 20 per cent of power should be through the off-grid route, which is supply of power solutions directly to the consumers rather than to the grid.
Given the current challenges, what, in your opinion, would make a good budget? What measures or proposals would you like to see?
I hope there is no loan waiver announced in this budget before the election year. If there is a measure that the finance minister should look at in this budget, it better be funds to boost innovation, especially in rural areas. There should also be a relook at the ITIs (the 657 odd industrial training institutes) that we have in the country. Upgrade them and make them more relevant.
Given the constraints the government faces in raising revenue, do you see a case to increase income tax rates on the rich?
Yes, there should be a tax on the rich. There cannot be a single number or income level to classify a person as rich.
Please identify the cut-off in income beyond which you would classify the person as rich.
Taxation should be based on slabs and there are experts who could decide on the percentage of tax under each slab.
If the budget does not meet expectations, do you fear that business sentiment would once again dip?
Industry seems to have already factored that in, so it may not have a huge impact.
Specific to your sector, what could the current budget do to improve conditions?
Under the National Solar Mission, 20 per cent of power should be through the off-grid route, which is supply of power solutions directly to the consumers rather than to the grid. However, there has really been no major push to encourage off-grid supply. In a country like India, where 500 million have no access to power supply, off-grid can play a very important role. This will ensure more equitable and distributed power than through the grid, which would again mean adding losses on account of inefficient transmission. I hope the budget comes up with some plans to provide refinancing support for supply of solar power through the off-grid mode.
Which budget, in the recent past, do you remember as having been a good one?
It would perhaps be the one in 2010/11, where the plan outlay for the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy was increased by 61 per cent over the previous year to Rs 1,000 crore.
Do you expect a business-friendly budget?
No. It may be populist.