A PM for Power Ministry

Power situation in India has been grim for decades. I remember how in late 60s- 80s the dismal power situation at Hindustan Motors made our life miserable. Our task at the factory was to keep on closing and starting machines in different sections to match the supply under quota. For months, we had to switch to third shift operation that was inhuman and highly inefficient. As a mad young man, I used to get in and come out of the plant many times in a day working almost 20 hours a day. In mid-80s when we got opportunity, we preferred to import huge diesel generating sets for around 20 MW. In 1997, I retired and came to Noida in Harig Crankshafts, and the power situation was equally bad if not worse. It remains the same today all over the country, be it Bangalore or Mumbai, Delhi or Chennai. The story of power outages is an example how the government and its bureaucracy have failed to provide the very basic infrastructure to tap the growth potential to its optimum level. How can the country’s GDP grow at 8-9% as the Prime Minister promises without availability of power?

As reported, power disruption in India’s offshoring capital Bangalore takes over 70 minutes for power to be restored if and when the disruption occurs. And it is all due to failure of the government after government that has ruled the state. NR Narayan Murthy in his book ‘A Better India, A better world’ has referred to the power project dedicated for Bangalore that still awaits government’s sanction after twenty years. Why can’t all the Metros and satellite townships have its own captive plant as proposed in SEZs? It can’t be for any other reason but the politics that rules the day.

According to a report of Manufacturers’ Association for Information Technology and Emerson Network Power, power disruption or outage costs India Inc Rs 43,205 crore. And this is situation when the captive power plants set up by individual companies in India generate 55,000 MW beside 148,000MW generated by power plants.

While on one hand the work in the companies in India gets disrupted because of power outages, 27% of the total power from the plants is lost in transmission and distribution and theft.

The record of power generation capacity addition has been poor. The new cabinet that retains the same minister hardly gives hope. Perhaps the only way out may be a PM for power ministry. It is not undoable, if the project management is efficient and the promises are met. Here is some good news that may enthrall optimistic like me:

The Power Ministry of the new UPA government promises to deliver new power capacity of 5,653 megawatts (MW) to the nation by the end of August. The President address promises to add 13,000 MW a year. But the use of words such as ‘strive’ or the ‘promise to announce’ additional coal-based ultra mega power projects (UMPP) of 4,000 MW each at Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Orissa in the next 100 days’ makes the intention doubtful.

As reported, a bevy of private power promoters are waiting in the wings with firm proposals to set up more than 30 greenfield power projects with a collective generating capacity of well over 25,000 MW across the country.

The Clinton Foundation has firmed up its plans to set up the world’s largest solar park in Gujarat with a capacity of 3,000-5,000 Mw.

If PM couldn’t get a better power minister, will he use one of the best youngsters from among new MPs or an efficient IAS to get the power projects monitored for him?

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