At 73, Srikant Prabhu still takes the stairs up and down the five-storey building where he works at Bhandup Industrial Estate at Pannalal Compound in Bhandup (West)not because he is a fitness freak but because he, like 7,000 other employees of this 26-year-old service industrial estate, has no choice.
Every day, from 7.30am to 11.30am, the elevators in the building where Prabhu runs a small canteen stand still. Every morning, load shedding forces him and many others to trudge up the stairs and sweat it out in one of the 631 dingy units in this estate without water do drink or use in toilets until power is restored.
“Every morning I have to make two to three trips to the fourth floor,” a frail Prabhu, lamented. “This is after I take a train from Dadar to Bhandup during rush hour.”
In Bhandup and Mulund, load shedding is as much a part of life as hanging out at R Mall or hanging out of local trains is. For Rs 4,000 to Rs 5,000 a square foot of real estate, you can get homes with swimming pools and club houses. What you cannot get in these suburbs that rely on the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited__the state-owned power distribution company__for this facility is uninterrupted power supply unless you invest in a generator or inverter.
According to Ram Dotonde, the chief public relations officer of MAHADISCOM, there is no immediate solution to the problem. “The demand-supply gap is huge. It is more than 5,500 MW. We have no option,” Dotonde said. “We have extended the period for all consumers. This will continue for another month or so.”
Bhandup Industrial Estate__which is not too far from an upcoming mall, being touted as one of India’s largest__faces daily power cuts for over four hours because it gets its feed from a line meant for residential properties.
“We have been demanding a separate feeder for our estate for the past one year but the electricity board officials say we will have to cough up Rs 1.5 crore for it,” Prakash Padikkal, chairman of Pannalal Compound Unit Holder’s Association, said. “Our annual turnover is Rs 700 crores. But we are suffering huge losses due to this,” Nitin Ved, a manufacturer of electrical components, claimed. “Production has dropped and efficiency reduced. If we don’t pay workers overtime dues they quit.”
The unit owners of the industrial estate will meet chief engineer, Bhandup division, Anil Khaparde, on Monday, for a discussion on the issue. “It is not possible to separate the feeder everywhere. Wherever it is, we will prepare an estimate for the capital expenditure involved and submit it to the authorities,” Khaparde explained.
In neighbouring Mulund, residents brave the three-hour power cuts, bracing themselves for the ruthless summer. Load shedding started with two hours, has now gone up to three and could get worse in May when the heat is at its peak. Timings change without prior notice leaving people stuck in elevators or spices half-ground in grinders.
Mahabir Urs, a 57-year-old engineering consultant and resident of Yogi Hills in Mulund (West) cannot get any work done unto 11.30 am. He lives on the fifth floor but cannot use the elevator for four hours every morning. “It is particularly bad for senior citizens,” Urs said. “Even women find it difficult working in the kitchen. If they have to use electrical appliances they have to finish cooking before 7.30am.” Power cuts also mean no instant hot water for a bath. Use the gas to heat water and risk your limb while carrying it to the bathroom or simply wait until noon to have a shower. “Why doesn’t the state allow other service providers to enter this area?” Urs asked. According to Urs, Mulund is the distribution company’s highest paying division in the state. “Over 97 per cent of what is billed is collected here,” he added.
“I really want to know how the Maharashtra State Electricity Board is going to provide power to all these new buildings coming up here,” Padikkal, a resident of Yogi Hills, stated.
* The Hill-side Residents Welfare Association (HIRWA) is planning to file a Public Interest Litigation against the load-shedding issue on behalf all residents of Mulund, Bhandup and Kanjur Marg.
* The Pannalal Compound Unit Holders’ Association is planning to bring together all industrial units in the belt and hold peaceful demonstrations against MAHADISCOM.