Mumbai: Maharashtra will be short of power this year, just as it has been for the last few, but if the state government’s track record in 2005-06 is any indication, its populist measures will continue.
According to data that has just become available, the state government issued 80,000 new electricity connections in 2005-06 for agricultural pumps. These pumps, used by farmers who get discounted or free power, consume a lot of energy. The total number of working agri-pumps in the state was 2.65 million as of March 2006. Figures for 2006-07 were not immediately available, but the economic survey of Maharashtra released last week said about 70,000 new applications for pumps are received every year.
The state’s electricity board also gave out 2.6 lakh new connections to households in 2005-06 to take the total number up to 13.9 million. Data on new connections given to industries was not available, but the survey said industry consumed 14% more power during the period than in the previous year. The industrial sector is the largest consumer of power, accounting for 43% of electricity distributed in Maharashtra, followed by domestic consumers who account for 23%, and agriculture at 18.7%. The state government cannot deny new power connections despite the massive shortage as there is no provision in the laws for such a measure.
Still, in an effort to moderate the use of electricity, the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Co. Ltd has dragged its feet on sanctions for new agri-pumps. Although 80,000 new connections were given last year, there were 3.76 lakh applications pending.
The per capita availability of electricity in the state was 661 units during 2005-06, according to the survey; this is one of the highest figures in the country. However, availability does not translate into actual usage. Transmission and distribution losses were as high as 32% during 2005-06.