Bhopal: In Madhya Pradesh, an electricity surplus state, unscheduled power cuts have become the order of the day. The state’s residents have been complaining on social media, especially since the country has been in the grip of a heat wave.
Meanwhile, the Congress and the BJP are in a blame game. While chief minister Kamal Nath has accused “BJP-minded” officials of sabotaging power supply, the saffron party has used the situation to label the government inefficient.
However, figures do not support the claim that outages and unplanned power cuts have increased since the Congress came to power. From January to April 2018, when the BJP was in power (results of assembly elections were announced in December 2018), there were 59,178 sudden power cuts, according to sourced in the MP electricity department. For the same period in 2019, with the Congress in power, there have been just 53,053 unplanned power cuts.
The department’s reports reveal that the state produces 19,000 MW of electricity per day. Its average consumption, in summer, is 9,500 MW. Interestingly, while consumers in the state pay around Rs 6.65 per unit, surplus electricity is sold to other states at just Rs 2.60/unit.
Miffed with the constant complaints of power cuts, chief minister Kamal Nath last month suspended 387 officers, employees and contract employees across the state, holding them responsible for the unscheduled cuts.
This did not solve the problem and power cuts continue to haunt residents. Residents are spilling their anger on social media, targeting the ruling Congress government.
Even internationally acclaimed Urdu poet and lyricist Rahat Indori, who lives in Indore, took a dig at the Congress government on Twitter.
— Dr. Rahat Indori (@rahatindori) June 2, 2019
In another tweet, Indori had tweeted, “Former CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan had correctly said that people must get ready to buy inverter during Congress rule”.
Return of ‘Bantadhar’
The BJP leaders have started attributing these power cuts to the “return of Mr Bantadhar”, a dig at Digvijaya Singh’s ten-year rule between 1993-2003 vis-à-vis that of the BJP from 2003-2018.
Prior to the 2003 assembly elections, the state struggled to provide electricity. In the 2003 elections, riding the wave of resentment, the BJP dislodged the Congress, reducing the latter to a mere 38 seats in the 230-seat assembly.
Taking a tough stand on the frequent power cuts, the BJP has made it a major post-poll issue and has blamed the government’s incompetence for the crisis.
BJP leaders have also slammed Kamal Nath for the government’s failure to cope with the water crisis, which has risen as a consequence of unscheduled power cuts.
Former minister and BJP leader Narottam Mishra blamed the state government for focusing on transferring officials instead of working to repair transformers. Leader of opposition Gopal Bhargava said that the government cannot shirk its responsibility towards people on issues like power, electricity and basic infrastructure.
CM warns officials
After a lot of hue and cry over the unscheduled power cuts, Kamal Nath has called for several high-level review meeting with the officials and ministers to deal with the crisis.
At another meeting on Tuesday, the CM said, “MP is a power surplus state and the unscheduled power cuts is mainly due to tripping and technical faults. The government will not allow people to suffer and take action to curb negligence on part of the power staff .” He warned officials that if proper power supply is not ensured, they would face the music.
“Apart from technical snag, if power supply is disrupted in any town or city of the state, officials will be held responsible and action will be taken. Negligence will not be tolerated. During the peak of summer, power supply is necessary for farmers and common people. Officials and employees must be prompt in restoring the supply,” Nath told officials at the meeting.
The government has asked officials of the power department to change their style of functioning. They were asked to ensure quality in distribution, replace poor quality equipment, check transmission loss, speed up repair and maintenance and recruit trained staff.
Power cut due to maintenance, says officials
But the energy department officials say the power cuts are part of pre-monsoon maintenance work. “There is no shortage of electricity in the state. Power cuts are reported because of annual maintenance. I have asked the department to complete the maintenance work by June 26,” said I.C.P. Kesari, a senior official. Annual maintenance could not be done because of the elections and other reasons, he claimed.
Requesting anonymity, an official said, “The maintenance has been due for a year. Owing to the consecutive assembly and Lok Sabha elections, the governments did not allow the energy department to conduct annual maintenance, as it may lead to power cuts.”
BJP behind power cut
The Congress, meanwhile blames “BJP workers” for the unscheduled power cuts. Party spokespersons have been attributing the power cuts to the “BJP-minded officials”. “For the past 15 years, the BJP has shaped the government officials’ minds into that of a party worker. Not only in the energy department, but in every department, the new government is facing such problems,” said Congress spokesperson Pankaj Chaturvedi.
Going a step further, the state government has even issued an advertisement in local newspapers blaming the BJP for the power cuts. In the ad, CM Kamal Nath appealed to the people on Wednesday to be wary of rumours and blamed the BJP’s “man-made obstructions” for the power cuts.
“I want to assure you that shortage of electricity is no reason behind the power related problems being experienced for the past few days. The reasons are not making improvements in the system in the past and creating man made obstructions in smooth supply (of power),” said Nath in advertisements issued in local newspapers on Wednesday.
Kashif Kakvi is a Delhi-based journalist who reports on Madhya Pradesh. He tweets @KashifKakvi.