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Crack The Whip, It’s Not Too Late

It was interesting to see and hear the Chief Engineer of the Power Department coming out with guns blazing, and announcing for one and all to hear and read that from today (January 24, 2011), the Power Department will launch a crackdown and penalize all defaulters, unauthorized connections, tampering with the readings on the meter box etc under the 2003 Electricity Act 2007 (Amendment). The Chief Engineer did explain that the latest move to be initiated by the Power Department had nothing to do with the Public Interest Litigation, that was filed by three eminent citizens of the land just 24 hours earlier, but we cannot write off the nagging doubt that this could have just been a mere co-incidence.

The true quality of leadership or an institution or a group of people can be gauged to a certain extent by the manner in which they adapt to a situation and this is where we need to see the fine dividing line between responding to a situation and reacting to a situation. We leave it to the judgment of the readers and the discerning public to decide where the Chief Engineer’s latest announcement lies. Was it in reaction to the PIL filed by three eminent personalities or was it in response to the abysmal state of power supply in the State, where uninterrupted power supply for even three hours is considered a luxury?

Let’s take some few facts into consideration. Manipur is one among the States in the North East to generate power of its own. The Loktak Hydro Project which has the capacity to generate about 90 megawatts at its peak with the State’s share standing at 12 percent stands testimony to this. On the other hand, the need of the State in a day stands at about 180 megawatts. The shortfall is immense as we can deduce from the figures given above. Over and above this we are told that the State Government also buys power from the National Grid and from such agencies as North East Power Corporation (NEEPCO), and National Hydro Project Corporation (NHPC).

The technicalities involved in the supply and availability of power such as the State’s share of only 75 to 80 percent in the Aggregate Technical and Commercial Load is Greek to us and we leave it to the experts and the professionals, who can tell a positive from a negative line, to work this out and put it in the layman’s language for one and all to understand and grasp. All these years, we have been fed with information, justifying or explaining the factors responsible for the abysmal power supply in the State. The factors often mentioned and still mentioned range from unauthorized connections, failure to pay the electricity tariff by the consumers, tampering with the meter boxes and of course the loss in power during transmission.

All these factors certainly have a lot to do with the power supply scenario in the State, which has reduced it to something of a farce. However one important thing that has been consistently overlooked or not said deliberately or otherwise is the fact that these problems are not unique to Manipur. Unauthorized connections, failure to cough up the required power tariffs, tampering with meter boxes and especially loss of power during transmission, are problems not unique to Manipur. The problem may be more intense here and there surely there must be a reason behind this. We do not know if the Power Department has cared to study the issue from this angle or not.

There is an Act called the 2003 Electricity Act 2007 (Amendment) and the very fact that this Act is applicable all over the country is a pointer to the reality that the factors for the poor power supply is not a Manipur specific issue. It is long overdue for the authority concerned, the Power Department, in this case, to crack the whip and pull up all defaulters. However as the Chief Engineer himself explained, the 2003 Electricity Act 2007 (Amendment) could not be implemented in Manipur for the delay in the appointment of the required Judges. How long the delay is anybody’s guess, for we are not privy to the information instructing the implementation of the said Act. It could be days or months or years but nevertheless what is clear is the screwed up priorities of the Government.

We cannot help but suspect that the needed Judicial officers were appointed after the PIL was filed in the Gauhati High Court and herein lies a tale. It is not for nothing that there is the general observation that if the three Ps, that is plead, petition and pleas, do not work, then something more radical needs to be taken up and what we are witnessing today is the coming to life of this observation right before our eyes. Since the consumers do not seem to be aware of their responsibilities, it was only expected that the Power Department will have to crack its whip and use all the legal mechanisms at its disposal and since the Power Department has not been taking up any proactive action all these years, then it is only natural that some conscientious citizens of the land will have to go the Court to seek justice.

Only three to four hours of power supply daily and that too in the capital city of Imphal is a cruel joke played on the people. Why should the genuine consumers suffer because of the failure of the Power Department to crack its whip and set the ball rolling for booking all defaulters? What took the Power Department so long to announce that it is going to wield the 2003 Electricity Act 2007 (Amendment) only now ? Manipur generates power on its own and reports say that it sells power to other States and this is why our heart burns, when we come face to face with the fact that North East States like Nagaland, Mizoram etc which do not have any power generation plants worth mentioning enjoy power supply, lighting up homes, while Manipur has to depend on the candle sticks and for the better off the generators and the inverters.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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