Delhi in dark: everything that can go wrong has gone wrong

The fact that the city-state is under lieutenant governor’s rule has added to the confusion


Pankaj Kumar | June 13, 2014

If good governance is anecdotally defined as BSP — bijli, sadak, pani, the capital falls short on two counts every summer. But as the mercury soared to a record-breaking 47.8 degree Celsius this year, Delhi has suffered long power outages for several days on end. In the day time, it is the traders and business establishments that complain of having no electricity, while at night it is the residents who have to go without even fans. That is the picture of the capital of a country with dreams of becoming a superpower.

The power crisis this year is all the more severe, because several factors have conspired in its making. Apart from a ramshackle infrastructure and population growth beyond planners’ estimates, the transmission and distribution network has been badly hurt after it was hit by a powerful storm on May 30. An exceptional heat wave is not helping matters either. On top of all that, there is no elected government in place.

Thus, for example, Delhi’s peak demand was about 5,800 MW on June 8, but the city’s three private distribution companies (‘discoms’) could manage to supply only 5,300 MW, because the some of the transmission lines were not working.

Delhi gets power from 43 generating stations, brought to the capital via interstate transmission by Powergrid Corporation of India. Delhi’s own generating stations have a transmission company, Delhi Transco, which “could not develop its own backup network. So when transmission failed the whole system collapsed. A temporary feeder was created to meet the shortfall but it had the capacity to carry only 25-40 percent additional power, which was not sufficient,” says VK Mittal, who heads research at the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

Another major problem is population explosion beyond estimates. This meant that whatever network the discoms created were saturated much before the designated time. Delhi’s power consumption is going up by 15 percent every year and switchyards installed to supply electricity to consumers have not been able to bear the much more than planned load.

“Expenses shown by the Delhi discoms (in infrastructure) are 30-35 percent inflated, so the system is already weaker than what is stated. That is why we have been demanding an audit of their accounts,” Mittal adds.

The fact that the city-state has been under the lieutenant governor’s rule has added to the confusion as the authorities took a while before coming up with a concerted response to the crisis. It was well a week after the outages began that lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung met the new union power minister, Piyush Goyal, on June 10. The outcome added to the helpless frustration of Delhiites: Goyal promised to restore the situation in 10 days – by when pre-monsoon showers should have quelled the heat wave.

Goyal has asked officials to repair storm-hit lines on war footing, in 10 days against an expected period of two months. He has also made arrangements to supply more fuel to Delhi’s own power plants so that they can increase generation by up to 400 MW. Moreover, he has also directed the discoms to announce the schedule of outages at 8 am every day, so that people can at least be prepared.

The power crisis has also led to an exchange of allegations among the three players jostling for power: BJP, Congress, and AAP.

Goyal blamed it on “policy paralysis and poor decision-making of the previous (Sheila Dikshit)) government”.  Delhi could add only 400 MW to its generation capacity in the last 12 years. Nothing was done to improve transmission and distribution to meet the growing demand,” he said.

Meanwhile, AAP leader Manish Sisodia and party workers went to the residence of Dr Harsh Vardhan to protest. “We are here because Dr Harsh Vardhan is a union minister and the Delhi BJP president. Delhi is under the central rule, so it is his as well as his party’s responsibility to end the crisis. Governance is clearly missing in Delhi,” Sisodia said.

Harsh Vardhan, on his part, said, “The Congress has ruled the state for 15 years and AAP ran away from its responsibilities after mere 49 days. How can they blame us? We are very much concerned and the central government is taking all steps to solve the problem.”



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