The government has announced further power cuts claiming a drop in power availability on account of what it calls the “lean season”. Nobody can be fooled that it has been only two or three months since the monsoon receded, and most of the electricity available in the northeast being hydro-electric, probably the receding of the monsoon is also what the government means by a “lean period” in power production. Moreover, even during the peak monsoon seasons, even the capital Imphal was getting power supply for only about four hours, except in the VIP and VVIP areas. In the districts, especially in the more remote hill districts, the situation was much worse. What are we to understand by the government’s attitude? Are we henceforth to expect some semblance of power supply during the “peak seasons” and little or no power during the “lean seasons”? Since the span of monsoon is about four to five months a year, the consequences of such a policy is anybody’s guess.
Why is the government treating this matter so casually? This acute power shortage has been around for at least the past one decade and to allow things to carry on in the manner does not at all speak well for the quality of governance in the state during the period. It is also no coincidence that this period literally falls within the span of the SPF government’s two terms. Power situation was bad before this too, but nobody will dispute that it was never as bad. Load shedding then meant a few hours without power in a day. Today it is the other way around, and means a few hours of power a day. Yet, there seems little urgency in the tone and tenor of the government in dealing with the situation. There must be an answer to the all important question as to why this is happening. Unfortunately the common people are kept in a dark. Since the matter is important, considering no modern business activities can do without power, and that the government’s success in tackling unemployment crucially depends on nurturing the fledgling private sector, the micro as well as mid size enterprises, and as the state moves on, larger industries. At this moment, the abject failure of the government to ensure power availability has condemned all prospects of income and employment generation in fields other than within the government’s artificial job cocoon where employees get their salaries regardless of output or contribution.
This being the case, the first thing the government ought to do is to come out with a White Paper on why it has failed so miserably on this front for so many years. We have no doubt the government would not volunteer to do this, for it is unlikely it will have a credible answer other than sheer neglect and incompetence. It would also be unreasonable to expect any reasonable pressure from the Opposition MLAs to have the government do what it is expected to do, after all, it is again everybody’s knowledge that the Opposition in the current Manipur Legislative Assembly, is there for formality only. These MLAs would not dare risk sticking their necks out and displease those in power, for the latter could easily shut off the faucets to the siphons generously extended to them to tap various benefits of the system. There are indeed very few Opposition MLAs today who are not found hanging around the offices and bungalows of ministers and other power brokers of the Ruling benches for governmental favours.
Other than the White Paper, the government must also think of other means to augment the power situation in the state. If dependence on hydro electricity is proving inadequate and seasonal, a standby system to take care of the power situation in the “lean season” must be found. Public memory is short, but not too short. About a decade ago, just before the 5th National Games in Imphal, there was a heavy fuel thermal power generation plant acquired by the state at inflated cost. The former President, Dr. Abdul Kalam Azad had inaugurated it during a visit to the state at the time. Why has it never been put into service, not even in the power “lean periods” the state has been living with? Why was it bought at all in the first place, if it is not to be used? The government has also claimed power theft by consumers as another reason for the state’s inability to increase its power purchase capacity. What has it been doing all this while to plug these leakages, other than watch the electricity department bleed to death?