In a bid to keep voters cool ahead of elections, states across northern India are drawing extra electricity from the national power grid so heavily that it faces the risk of collapsing, power officials said on Wednesday.
Worse, some of the states are paying 4 to 5 times the normal cost for the extra power, in moves that could make big holes in their budgets.
While it is usual for states to overdraw from the national grid during summer, the situation has become “alarming” because of elections, a central power ministry official said on condition of anonymity.
On Tuesday, Rajasthan drew 1,096 mw of power over and above its share of 1,121 mw in central power generation, according to data available with the Power Grid Corp. that oversees the national grid.
Similarly, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana were seen overdrawing 907 mw and 756 mw respectively from the grid. Chhattisgarh was next overdrawing up to 411 mw, followed by Punjab (388 mw), Delhi (281 mw) and J&K (263 mw).
The Powergrid Corp., an official said, has already warned the states against a possible grid failure if they continue with the practice. But none of the states appear to be heeding to the advice.
Officials in Bihar State Electricity Board said they have been asked to supply as much power as possible during elections. The state is paying up to Rs 10 per unit for the extra power it is buying from other power surplus states.
In Uttarakhand, the managing director of Uttarakhand Power Corporation Ltd. Jagmohan Lal said the state “purchased around 2 million units from Gujarat at an exorbitant rate of around Rs 10 per unit, while we offer at Rs 2 per unit to consumers”.
Lal said the state has also persuaded Punjab and Delhi to provide as 4 millions units under power banking provision, which allows states to borrow from each other and pay back at a later date.
Uttarakhand goes to polls on May 13, while in Bihar elections are being held in four phases ending on May 7.
The situation is no different in Uttar Pradesh, where officials are having a nightmare trying to minimise power cuts.
“Power is not available in the market to even if we are willing to pay the higher cost,” said Ashok Kumar, director (Transmission) at UP Power Corporation Ltd.
The willingness of states to pay whatever it takes to get the extra power, however, has serious implications for their budgets. Once elections are over, governments will look to make up for the revenue lost in the bargain for votes, and chances are welfare spending could be the first to take a hit.
For now though, consumers are not complaining.
"Till last year we would face 5-6 hours power cuts even we thought of same till second week of this year. But these days the overall power cut hours are not more than 2-3 hours" said Beena Pande, a housewife in Haldwani.
(Ruchir Kumar in Patna and BK Parashar in Lucknow contributed this story)