The government reacted as government to a report in Hindustan Times on the power cuts in the city, with meetings. And missed a potentially explosive situation unfolding on the power front: dysfunctional complaint centres.
Irate consumers took to the streets in parts of the city protesting the long and frequent cuts, and their inability to get an answer — or help — from their local complaint centres abandoned by the staff.
The Power Secretary took a meeting of the heads of the private distribution companies while his boss, Delhi’s Chief Secretary, called all of them to another meeting to thrash out a solution to the crisis.
At the end of the meetings, they decided that there was no way out.
“There is no power. What can they (discoms) do?” Chief Secretary Rakesh Mehta told Hindustan Times.
The state of affairs was reminiscent of the pre-privatisation era, when power riots were common and power cuts almost perpetual.
People blocked traffic in West Delhi’s Tilak Nagar, where there was no power for 10 hours at a stretch, damaged buses and ransacked the office of a distribution company.
Another bunch of protestors, in central Delhi’s Paharganj, blocked the arterial Deshbandhu Gupta Road. In Dwarka, West Delhi, residents stormed into the power company’s office at midnight and beat up a junior officer.
Their grouse: little or no help from the distribution company (discom).
“In the first place the (helplines) never connect. When they do, the attendants tell us that there is no information at the moment,” said MS Chugh of the South Extension Residents’ Welfare Association.
When distribution was privatised in 2002, discoms were given a year to put in place a world-class customer care system, then in a shambles, within a year. Seven years on, and you would be lucky if you can extract any useful information out of the helplines about outages, let alone get power restored.
On Thursday night, HT called up the numbers repeatedly at different times, including past midnight, to report a long power cut in Dwarka, but none of the lines worked.
The helplines of BSES – 39999707 and 39999808—were the worse. “Error in Connection” was the default message.
The three “dedicated, 24X7 helplines” for power cuts launched by Delhi government this month have already gone kaput. “The number you are calling is not reachable,” is the standard response.
While the Power Secretary remained unavailable to the media the entire day, Chief Secretary Mehta conceded that the helplines were a big problem. “I’ll ask the power secretary to keep extra personnel to man helplines,” he said. “People should also try the helplines of the Public Grievance Cell and the discoms.”
(Inputs from Neelam Pandey)