Power Starved

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Reams of newsprint must have been spent in writing of the pathetic power situation in Manipur. Even a public interest litigation, PIL, had been filed once in the court of law, in which the court directed the government to do whatever is necessary to improve the situation, as power shortage is not just about inconveniences caused to individual consumers but equally of condemning the fledgling private sector economic engine. Micro businesses such as photo studios, tyre retread workshops, internet cafes, printing presses etc, nobody will doubt need electricity vitally for survival, and they are the ones who suffer the most. All of them have been stunted if not made bankrupt because of this criminal failure of the government on this front for the past more than one decade. To survive they have to buy their own power generators. The losses are not so much in terms of revenue unrealised, but more by way of entrepreneurial talent destroyed in all these years, and to what sum they would add up to is unimaginable and thereby unforgivable. Why is the government not giving this matter the seriousness it deserves? We would have thought this required to be tackled on a war footing.

For a few weeks after the court directives on the PIL mentioned, the government did with much fanfare swing into action, sending out a team everywhere in Imphal, disconnecting illegal consumers and in some case, taking them into custody, but no sooner than the heat of the court verdict eased, the concerned department lost the plot, and we suspect, deliberately. Today things are back at square one. Domestic consumers get at the most four hours of power a day and for some reasons which the concerned department has not bothered to explained to the public, in extremely low voltage as well. Those of us with a little bit of physics background know very well the damage this can cause to appliances run by motors and compressors. For precision motor-operated instruments and gadgets such as DVD players, this damaged would become noticeable in no time, that is, if the power to the instrument is not supplied from a home voltage stabiliser. This has also meant that practically every one of these instrument have to have a suitable stabiliser, bringing up the overall cost of these instruments. The repairs for damages caused by low and fluctuating voltage as well as for necessary purchases of stabilisers are some more unnecessary overheads the ordinary consumers have to bear.

There is more, the man-hour lost because of lack of electricity is yet another huge loss to the economy of the place. No city become dead at 7pm in this competitive world and indeed as the cliché goes, some cities never sleep. Imphal perforce has to wind up at about nightfall as the place would be in pitch darkness thereafter in the face of its perpetual power shortage. With the exception of pressmen and policemen there would be practically nobody awake after 10pm. The revenue losses this is causing would also be astronomical. And yet, this government seems little bothered. It simply seems to be content doing what has become its trademark response to any situation, regardless of the urgency demanded and regardless of what misery this is putting the ordinary people in – wait and watch. There is one more thing which calls for an explanation. The power supplied to consumers is in two categories. One is generally known as the “ordinary line” and the other goes by the popular nomenclature “VIP line”. Those connected to the former gets only three to four hours electricity a day, while those influential enough or know the rights strings to pull in the government are connected to the latter where this vital commodity is available for all of 24 hours a day. Is this permitted under the law, especially since there are no differences in tariff in the power supplied from either line? Officially, the electricity department denies there is such a categorisation, but everybody knows this is the case, and there is no way electric light can be hidden, especially at night. Should not this undeclared official discrimination deserve to face another PIL? What is also surprising is the manner in which the people of the state have been tolerating all this for so long. Not enough drinking water, not enough electricity, abysmally muddy or else dusty roads, un-cleared garbage on the roadsides, and yet nobody or no organisation has been provoked enough to protest. Either the overwhelming nature of these abuses has lulled them into mediocrit
y and submission, or else they never tried to connect the annual budgetary allocations for the concerned government departments, with the quality of work they execute every year. It is time for everybody to wake up to this reality and have something done.

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