Electricity Management

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The new calibrated electricity tariff programme released by the electricity department is welcome. In fact, this is a programme long overdue. The move is especially relevant keeping in mind the department’s current tough electricity revenue collection drive in the Imphal area, which has even meant penalties ranging from fines to jail detentions for many found resorting to illegal connection or else defaulting bill payments inordinately. As expected, it also came to light that many individual consumers have piled up unpaid bills so that many among them are actually in no position to pay them up immediately. This being the case, apart from the newly released tariff structure, the government must also come out with another policy to have these bill defaulters pay up their dues on easy instalments. This is not just about being lenient to the defaulters, but of a prudent strategy to ensure that the overdue revenue is recovered, even if in delayed phases.
The government seems to be pushing the agenda in earnest this time. Machines for the much talked about prepaid electricity subscription system are seen being installed in the crowded Paona Bazar and Thangal Bazar areas, and understandably they will spread to the rest of Imphal city and ultimately to the whole of the state. This is relevant. Not only are the residents of the Bazar areas by and large relatively more affluent than the average citizen of the state, but if a close survey were to be done, the volume of power tapping here would be much higher than anywhere else in the state. This would be mostly by way of part tapping so that each connection is heavily under invoiced. According to an estimate, on an average, each of the buildings would be consuming 20 times the power accounted for in the monthly bill invoices they receive. It would be interesting to note how much the jump in the electricity revenue is just by streamlining the revenue collection mechanism in this crowded commercial area after the prepaid machines have been made functional. By the same principle, even though it is said there is zero revenue coming in from many of the districts, especially the hill districts, in terms of volume of power default, the losses would be much more on account of the partial tapping in the more thickly populated Imphal area. It is encouraging that the new tariff structure also acknowledges the fact the wide income disparity in the state, and has tried to make sure that people below or else not very much above the poverty line do not unduly suffer by introducing lower special power prices for them. The caution however should be to ensure that nobody who do not deserve these concessions bribe their way to get them. This shameless practice unfortunately has today become a customary practice in Manipur, but what the government should be more worried in the present context is that this undignified culture does not result in any substantial revenue losses, or be a negative incentive for normally honest customers to also begin resorting to similar tactics.
Other than setting its revenue collection mechanism in order, nobody needs to be reminded that what is also essential is an augmentation of the availability of electricity in the state. At this moment, we are given to understand that there is a wide gap between the need of the state and what is available. From information available from the government, this gap would also be filled or else narrowed down considerably in the course of this year. At the moment the transmission technology the state, hence transmission losses are alarming. This is in the process of being taken care of and new transmissions lines are being constructed to bring in electricity from the Northeast grid. While this is good news for the immediate future, what the government and everybody else need to be also concerned about is what lies beyond the immediate future. Power need of the state at the moment is not too big, considering there are no large scale industries in the state. However, as the state’s economy grows along with its population, this need is going to multiply on a geometric progression. We may not be talking of a too distant future here but possibly the next few years. What would the state do then? Does the government have a long term power plan that extends beyond the next elections? Such policies are what would distinguishes governments and leaders with vision from those who are satisfied living and from crisis to crisis tackling problems after they have gripped the state and not anticipating them so as to avoid them.

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