It’s a powerful irony of modern times. The dusty district of Chandrapur — known as the powerhouse of Maharashtra — produces 3,500 MW of the state’s total output of 8,000 MW but itself goes without electricity for six hours every day.
Not only this. The seven coalmines in and around eastern Maharashtra’s Chandrapur district, which fuel the state-owned Chandrapur Super Thermal Power Station (producing 2,500 MW) and several private power stations (producing 1,000 MW) are a bane for people here. They inhale air that is laden with coal dust and coal ash, exposing themselves to several diseases.
Well-known physician Dr D.S. Wasnik told HT that fine-particle pollution leads to heart attacks, asthma, chronic lung disease, strokes, lung cancer and other problems.
Besides, the coalmines and power stations end up polluting the Irai river that flows through Chandrapur town and is the only source of potable water for the local people.
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) nominee Datta Hajare has been highlighting these problems and promising to have them resolved. “I am confident that people will send me to the Lok Sabha this time so that I can take up their problems at the national level effectively since successive governments in Maharashtra have failed to do anything.”
Congress candidate Naresh Pugalia was not impressed. “The BSP propaganda will not have any impact on the Congress prospects. Voters know that electricity is a state subject while national issues such as the economy and security matter in the Lok Sabha elections,” he said.
In contrast to Pugalia’s cavalier attitude, Chandrapur’s sitting MP Hansraj Ahir of the BJP seems a worried man. He passed the buck to the state government: “Power is a state issue and that is why the Congress-NCP government should take the responsibility in resolving the twin issue of power cuts and pollution. There must be fair and just criteria for distribution of electricity in the state.”
This election, people here are hoping that power will come with responsibility.