Andhra Pradesh is facing the worst power crisis in history. The situation is alarming and something needs to be done about it pretty quick. Both in terms of short-term solutions and long-term planning.
City folk face the routine problems that city folk everywhere do when power is lost. Your favorite show on TV vanishes, the soothing purr of the air conditioner (man’s greatest invention) abandons you, the heavenly leftovers you were about to microwave remain unappetizingly cold, the dynamite fish masala you had just started to grind loses its lusciousness, you kick yourself for not having turned the geyser on first thing in the morning… forget about that nice hot shower, oops did you also forget to charge your phone while the power was on? The worst is being on the treadmill and feeling good about getting back on an exercise routine and the treadmill quits suddenly… hopefully you were hanging on otherwise injury is guaranteed… and children add a whole host of other issues like homework, laundry and such.
Over the last couple days, in my neighborhood, the two hour-long power cuts that were set in stone for the last few weeks are slowly rising in frequency and length. The monsoon rains are almost absent and while the crazy paralyzing heat of the summer has receded, it is still hot and by no means comfortable.
Farmers are meant to receive seven hours of uninterrupted power supply in the state. Around 70% of AP farmers fall in the category of cultivating less than five acres and hence qualify for free electricity. Farmers are thus viewed by some as unfair beneficiaries of free electricity but the truth is that they are hardly getting any electricity at all, free or not. The truth and ground reality in at least one village, a mandal headquarter, is that of a farmer sleeping in the fields with an alarm set for 1 am to wake up to turn the irrigation motors on as the village is receiving one hour of power at that time. At most it could go up to 2 hours but that is on an exceptional day.
The rest of the majority of AP residents are pretty much living in darkness. These citizens are much worse off than city folk. Currently villages are receiving a maximum of 4 hours of power per day, three of these being in the middle of the night. Despite tall claims by the government that it is working on providing uninterrupted power to rural areas from 6 pm to 6 am, it ain’t happening.
Industry is facing an unprecedented cutback in power supply. The Federation of AP Chambers of Commerce and Industry, (FAPCII) recently held a meeting bringing together representatives across industrial sectors to voice concerns and demand solutions for the unviable situation that many companies are finding themselves in as a result of the power crisis. It is estimated that industry will lose Rs 257 crore a day in the current power situation where cuts to industry are at 52% since July 5th. Some businesses may have to simply shut down in this scenario.
The dent on productivity and the ensuing economic loss due to power cuts is astounding. Why would any company want to start a manufacturing unit in AP? The recent Advantage AP Information Technology Summit saw the release of a report by Zinnov Management Consulting highlighting AP’s advantages. The report lists the “Robust Power Scenario in the State.” It states that AP has the 3rd largest power generation company in India. And that the State Electricity Board (SEB) reported a net profit of Rs 11 billion and this makes it the best performing SEB in the country. Makes you wonder what it all means.
Of course AP is not unique. Many other states are facing similar power problems. There has to be a real push and a concrete plan to step up alternate energy plants and encourage small scale private power plants. But instead of such realistic measures it was reported in the Hindu a few days ago that a “three-day ‘Varuna Yagam’ (was) embarked upon by the power distribution arm of the State government-- AP Southern Power Distribution Company Ltd (APSPDCL) in its campus here to propitiate and seek divine intervention of the Five Holy Elements (Panchabhootas) of the cosmic system for bountiful rain.”