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To not be powerless

The reasons cited for the worsening power situation only pinpoint the failure of the distcoms and government in anywhere coming to grips with the obvious problems.

india Updated: May 01, 2006 00:07 IST

The reasons cited for the worsening power situation only pinpoint the failure of the distcoms and government in anywhere coming to grips with the obvious problems -- poor generation and losses in distribution. Delhi’s own power plants are running on borrowed time, with modernisation plans remaining on-paper activities. The blame game between states overdrawing power from shared grids continues year after year. Private distcoms blame poor generation at one end and theft at the other. Despite fretting about it since distribution was privatised almost four years ago, they have been able to do little about containing thefts.

The yearly cycle of grids collapsing because of states overdrawing is not about to change until the government is serious about pushing through the long overdue reforms in the power sector across the country. Decrepit state electricity boards refuse to modernise their plant or distribution networks and act as a hindrance to the grid. That said, at the local level, distcoms plan to ‘punish’ residential colonies that have the highest incidence of power theft with the highest level of load-shedding. They seek legislation that will allow them to snap connections in ‘areas prone to power theft’ and illegal industry units. Whether this sledgehammer approach will work is uncertain. For one, the real problems don’t arise from jhuggi clusters and residential colonies but from illegal industries run with the backing of politicos.

When Delhi’s power distribution was privatised, there was hope that superior management skills would help streamline supply. But clearly, the distcoms have failed to invest the considerable funds where required -- in monitoring, auditing and managing power distribution with improved technology and trained manpower. Administrative success in reviewing power tariffs or installing electronic meters is as ineffective as laying water pipes where there is no water. Till there are larger reforms in the power sector and a tough approach towards tackling the corrupt nexus between officials and power thieves, there is little hope of power reaching the people.