Bhopal: The Madhya Pradesh state government has been suspending energy department officials and employees, issuing warnings, and has also ordered to register FIR against all those who try stall the power supply in the state. This is the state of affairs in a state where power production is in surplus, but unscheduled power cuts have become the order of the day.
Addressing a press conference on Friday, June 14, State Energy Minister Priyavrat Singh said,
“FIRs have been lodged against some people in Damoh and Bhopal who were creating faults in power supply. I have also instructed the officials concerned that anyone who intentionally create any obstacle in power supply would not be spared.”
Last month, the state government terminated 387 permanent and contractual employees of the department who were found guilty of either stalling power supply or failed to do their duty. The government also suspended six employees last week.
According to the sources in the MP Electricity Department, till April 2019, 53,053 unplanned and sudden power cuts have been recorded across the state, while during the erstwhile BJP government, the figure was recorded at 59,178, in the same period last year.
The numbers show that the complaint of power cut was (6,125 more cases) higher under the previous government than the current year, but the opposition BJP has put the Congress-led government on its toes by organising state-wide campaigns and agitation by carrying out lalten (lamp) rally and attributing it as the“Return of Mr Bantadhar (spoilsport)”, a tag attached to Digvijaya Singh to showcase his rule of 10 years from 1993-2003 vis-à-vis that of the BJP from 2003-2018.
Prior to the 2003 Assembly elections, the state had seen unprecedented power cuts that went on for hours. Riding the wave of resentment, the BJP dislodged the then Congress government which had ruled for 10 years, reducing the latter to a minority of a mere 38 seats in the 230-seat Assembly.
“We are a surplus power state and sell power to West Bengal and Chhattisgarh. In June, we will also sell power to Uttar Pradesh for paddy cultivation. Even though the peak hour demand is 9,500 MW in the morning and 7,500 MW in the evening, the state is producing upto 19,000 MW a day,” said state power minister Priyavrat Singh.
Congress Blames BJP’s Officials and Poor Equipment
Blaming the BJP’s influence, state Congress spokesperson Pankaj Chaturvedi said, “There are certain BJP-minded officers and employees in the system who are creating these troubles. There is no reason for unscheduled power cuts because MP is a surplus power state.”
Taking a tough stand on frequent power cuts, the BJP has made it a major post-poll issue and has blamed the government’s incompetence for the crisis.
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BJP leaders have slammed CM Kamal Nath for the government’s failure to cope with the power and water crises in the state. Unscheduled power cuts have also led to an unprecedented water crisis. Former minister and BJP leader Narottam Mishra said that the state government is busy in `transfers’ instead of getting transformers repaired. Leader of opposition Gopal Bhargava said that the government cannot shirk from its responsibility towards people on issues like power, electricity and basic infrastructure.
CM Organises Review Meeting
After a lot of hue and cry over unscheduled power cuts, CM Nath called for a urgent high-level review meeting with the officials and ministers to deal with the crisis. In the last couple of months, CM reviewed three-four meetings but the report of power complaint continues to grow.
“Apart from technical snag, if power supply is disrupted in any town or city of the state then officials will be held responsible and action will be taken. Negligence will not be tolerated at any cost. During the peak of summer, power supply is necessary for farmers and common people. Officials and employees must be prompt in restoring the supply,” Nath told officials at one of the meetings.
The chief minister also instructed officials to ensure quality in distribution, replace poor quality equipment, check transmission loss, speed up repair and maintenance and recruit trained staff.
Speaking to the media, the state energy minister blamed the erstwhile BJP government for using poor equipment and long due maintenance.
“Low quality equipment were used by the previous government and they were poorly maintained. In the last six months, 60,000 transformers were changed. Maintenance was due from last two years. I have constituted a technical team which would check transformers and other equipment.” the minister added.
Power Cuts Due to Maintenance, Say Officials
Finding themselves in the hot water, the Energy Department officials are attributing the power cuts to pre-monsoon maintenance. “There is no shortage of electricity in the state. Power cuts are reported because of annual maintenance, however, I have asked the department to complete the maintenance work by June 26,” said Additional Chief Secretary of Energy, ICP Kesari.
Requesting anonymity, an official said, “The maintenance was overdue since last one year. Owing to the two consecutive elections -- Assembly and Parliamentary elections, the erstwhile government had warned the energy department officials to not carry out annual maintenance because it may led to power cuts.”
A common theory floating around Congress headquarters is that BJP workers are behind unscheduled power cuts. As CM Nath took over the reins of MP, unscheduled power outages increased. “In the last 15 years, the BJP has influenced the government officials to act like party workers. Not only in the energy department, the new government is noticing such situation in every department,” said Pankaj Chaturvedi.
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Even, in a newspaper advertisement, published last Wednesday, the CM Kamal Nath appealed to the people to be wary of rumours and blamed the previous BJP government and man-made obstructions behind the unscheduled power cuts in the state.
“I want to assure you that shortage of electricity is no reason behind the power related problems being experienced for the past few days. The reasons are not making improvements in the system in the past and creating man made obstructions in smooth supply (of power),” said Nath in advertisements issued in the local newspapers on Wednesday.
Electricity Costliest in MP
The common man of MP pays much more for energy consumption than in several other states of the country, despite having a power surplus.
Interestingly, the state consumers pay around Rs 6.65 per unit of the electricity while the surplus electricity is sold to other states at a rate of Rs 2.60. Showing annual deficit and revenue gap, the power companies have applied for yet another hike of 12% to the Madhya Pradesh Electricity Regulatory Commission (MPERC), but, the commission has brushed aside the proposal.
For instance, in MP, if one uses two ACs (5-star), a couple of fans, an LED TV and five LED bulbs, or consumes about 425 units per month, they have to pay at least Rs 3,350 per month. But for the same consumption in neighbouring Chhattisgarh, the residents pay Rs 1,947, while in Gujarat it is Rs 1,930, and Rs 2,137 in Delhi. The tenants are forced to pay as high a rate as Rs 9 or 10 per unit in the state capital Bhopal, and other cities like Indore, Gwalior and Jabalpur.