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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

After massive power outage, PC becomes FM and Sushil Shinde gets Home

In the previous regime in Tamilnadu, media lampooned him as ‘powercut minister’ – perhaps, he is not alone, there are bigger sharks !!

India groped in dark – not fully, the Southern States were not even aware of the massive blockout that engulfed parts of India with some newspaper reports suggesting that nearly 700 million Indians went without power for hours after three of the five regional power grids collapsed.  "Powerless and Clueless," chimed The Times Of India, adding that Indians would not forget the "Terrible Tuesday" in a hurry.  In some ways they are right – we have seen politicians being rewarded for non-performance.  When the State politics get terrible, to ease out one, the person is made a Governor of the neighbouring State;  the economy plunged to its nadir – the FM became the President; there has been trouble at Assam, and the one who always speaks of foreign hand, now becomes the FM and a day after the Nation went powerless, the Power Minister becomes the Home Minister !!!! the  Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari  is quoted as remarking that India wasn’t facing a power crisis after all. Ensconced in their comfortably air-conditioned living quarters powered up with taxpayer-funded extravaganzas, our leaders may have become blind to the reality of India; the reality of millions not having the facility of electricity in rural areas.  But when you cannot make villages prosper to the level of cities, make cities suffer the similar lack of facilities, seems to be the autocratic idea.  

19 states and more than 600 million Indians found themselves without power after three major grids that supply electricity tripped in quick succession. The Delhi metro stopped running for over an hour, and some passengers were trapped inside till an emergency supply helped trains reach the nearest station. In West Bengal, 200 workers in four underground coal mines were trapped for hours after the  elevators to bring them back up stopped working; fortunately there were no casualties.   The massive outage followed in quick succession the earlier one arising out of collapse of Northern supply grid rendering seven states and Delhi into darkness.   There were allegations that the crisis had been triggered by  three states - Haryana, Punjab and UP – drawing  much more than their assigned share of power. The states hit were: Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, J&K, Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand, West Bengal, UP, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi and the seven North Eastern states.

The  massive power outage had its impact on everything from Metro to major traffic snarls.  The Power Grid Corp and its subsidiaries buy electricity from various generating firms, including those outside India like in neighbouring Bhutan, and transmit such power via their network to the distribution companies, which in turn sell it to end-consumers.  The company has already filed a complaint with the electricity sector watchdog against some states for successively overdrawing power, which was the main reason for such a large-scale outage Monday and Tuesday.  The Central Electricity Regulatory Commission, in turn, has summoned top officials of five errant states to appear before it Aug 14, holding them personally responsible for not adhering to an earlier order of not to overdraw electricity.  Those summoned for the Aug 14 hearing by the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission are the heads of the respective electricity bodies of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir. The big blame game has already started.  The Centre has come down sharply on Punjab, Haryana and UP saying they overdrew 4000 MW of electricity and that caused the tripping of three grids in a cascade effect yesterday, leaving 600 million people without power. The states deny that their actions triggered the huge power collapse. Veerappa Moily, who took charge of the ministry today, said he would set up 24x7 monitoring to ensure constant vigil against power crashes and promised restructuring of state electricity regulatory boards.
To the others who were not affected, it is not eternal bliss – they have been experiencing heavy power cuts – some scheduled and some not.  The power crisis was waiting to happen after the largesse and political populism; no futuristic plans, no regulation, no proper pricing, not controlling transmission losses,   selling electricity lower than the cost of generation, allowing power to be drawn by hooks unauthorisedly by political parties and even residents in some areas.   There is even an opinion that the State Governments would happily pay the penalty as still this would be lower than the cost of procuring from the market.  

Gujarat was not affected.  The State has amply demonstrated that by providing the right price incentives – and by curtailing power theft – it is possible to generate power surplus even after providing 24×7 power, not just in the big cities but in all the villages as well.  Sad that mediocrity gets instant recognition as the Power Minister who remained clueless for the 2 blackouts gets a chance to manage the weightier Home portfolio.  The Underperformer is not the Prime Minster but only the common man who does not even realize the gravity of the situation and would continue to forget all the trouble sooner or wait for the next bigger problem to happen to forget the earlier one.  

As a fall out of outage, the Govt. extended the last date for e-filing of income tax returns till August 31.  “On consideration of the reports of disturbance of general life caused due to failure of power and further in consideration of the fact that the e-filing of returns for a specified category of individuals and Hindu Undivided Family (HUF) has been made mandatory, CBDT has extended the ‘due date’ of filing of returns to August 31, 2012,” an official release said.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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