To people, reeling in the face of massive power shortages across the country, it must be galling to be told that reliable, affordable, quality power by 2012 is the national goal. People in the metros are today facing power shortages, and with it severe water shortages in what is the worst such crisis in recent times. Lack of public lighting has compromised people’s security, affected children studying for competitive exams, thrown essential services like hospitals off kilter and has seriously undermined the health of people with no shelter.
The loss to the economy due to our power shortages is put at Rs 43,205 crore in the financial year 2008-09. It is difficult to determine where to begin when listing out all things wrong with the power sector. The obvious is the huge gap between supply and demand. The government has before it several reports detailing the colossally inadequate and ageing infrastructure with poor maintenance of transformers, imbalanced power loading and equipment that includes substandard cabling and earthing. Now, overhauling these would be considered essential in such a fast-growing economy. To make up for shortfall, states simply overdraw from the grids causing them often to collapse. Last year, the Power Grid Corporation petitioned the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission against overdrawing, but no prizes for guessing that little was done. Among the states most guilty are UP, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat. The quality of power distribution has always been a cause for worry since it is affected by huge voltage fluctuations. Proposals for fixing power tariffs based on availability have also been hanging fire as has the need to use IT applications to streamline the system. The metros particularly are subject to faulty meter readings, power theft and uneven revenue collection.
It is fruitless to blame the poor monsoon and external and unpredictable factors for the plight we find ourselves in. Year after year, citizens are put to extreme hardship as temperatures soar. People in metros, at least, have the satisfaction that they are able to voice their protest. Many in rural areas, whose lives depend on power supply for water, rarely have that option. This government came to power on the development plank. But what development are we talking about when people find that the quality of life in the summer months is deteriorating by the year? If the government is so keen on fast-tracking many issues like education, surely power should also feature high on the list.