NEW DELHI: IIT Madras professor Ashok Jhunjhunwala, who recently quit as a key government adviser associated with India’s ambitious electric vehicle programme, has alleged that many domestic and international automobile companies do not want the country to achieve the mission and have connived to malign him.
After being an adviser to the renewable energy ministry Jhunjhunwala is likely to take a new role of principal adviser in the railway ministry headed by Piyush Goyal. He has been in key official committees on sectors including telecom and on boards of institutions and companies for years, and has incubated many companies. In his recent official stint, he was assigned the task of planning the switch to e-vehicles by 2030 without the need of subsidy and was part of most committees on the e-vehicle mission.
A government official said, “The new and renewable energy ministry has decided not to use his services anymore.” Jhunjhunwala, who coined the idea of selling vehicles without batteries that could be hired separately to cut costs, strongly denied allegations of conflict of interest against him. But Jhunjhunwala said his one-year term in the renewable energy ministry got over on November 7. “I have done everything transparently. After all, for professors, reputation is everything,” he told ET over phone.
“I am aware of the allegations against me. Lot of people dislike me and are trying all sorts of tricks and nuisance because they don’t want the electric vehicle mission to happen. If it is all correct, how will I be a part of the government,” he said. Some industry executives have alleged that he tweaked norms to award contracts in the electric vehicle and charging station tenders floated by Energy Efficiency Services Ltd (EESL).
Jhunjhunwala, however, said he resigned from boards of all private companies a year ago when he was chosen to spearhead the mission. “I was on the board of Tata Telecommunications, Tata Teleservices, Mahindra Electric, Shaskun, Polaris and others. I resigned from all of them and I have no shares. I took a huge hit in my income,” he said.
EESL had floated a tender in August this year to procure 10,000 electric vehicles for four government departments in Delhi-NCR. The tender was won by Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra. EESL also floated a tender around the same time to procure 4,000 electric vehicle chargers to create an ecosystem for deployment of the electric cars. The chargers tender required the participating companies to have their chargers tested at IIT Madras to qualify for the price bid.
The company, however, decided to invite a quick tender for 300 chargers on October 30 for the first tranche of 500 electric vehicles to be delivered by Tata Motors and M&M by this month.
Only Exicom Tele-systems, where Jhunjhunwala was once a board of director, had the required certification, which some industry executives questioned. “Jhunjhunwala was on the committee which was required to do these necessary certification at IIT Madras,” said an industry official.
Jhunjhuwala said the draft norms for the tenders were put out for comments of stakeholders including SIAM, consultations were done and the revised norms were duly made public.
After the industry said it was impossible to get certifications in a short time, EESL tweaked the norm which then required companies to at least furnish an undertaking stating their products met technical specifications of the tender, if they did not have their products tested at either IIT-Madras or Automotive Research Association of India. This tender for 300 chargers was finally scrapped and EESL floated a fresh tender for 250 chargers which is still in the process.