Power Politics – Divide and Rule in Maharashtra

This year the state of Maharashtra again suffers from acute electricity shortage and extended power cuts. While cities are facing 2-6 hours of cuts, the villages have to go without power for 10-16 hours a day.

As most in India are aware, the reason for this situation is the incompetence of the politicians and the state run power company they control.

While the govt has shown no innovation or vision when it comes to power supply, it has been ingenious in managing the power cuts. An elected and supposedly peoples’s government seems to be relying on “Divide and Rule”. I will elaborate.

Considering that the entire state of Maharashtra is short on electricity, most outsiders would think that all parts of the state will be facing equal power cuts. But the reality is that the power cuts vary inversely to the political importance of a place in the state.

So the capital city of Mumbai faces no power cuts. Mumbai is supposedly an integral part of Maharashtra but it gets preferential treatment. Lame excuses like the power company in Mumbai isn’t the same as the rest of Maharashtra are anything but convincing considering that the sources of power are the same.

This special treatment for Mumbai also further distances Mumbai from the rest of Maharashtra. Citizens of Mumbai think that Maharashtra is a burden that might soon lead to power cuts for them. Rest of Maharashtra feels that Mumbai is a spoilt sibling that continues to get an unfair share from the parents.

Pune, the second largest city in Maharashtra faced severe power cuts last year and that led to protests that shook the government. So the govt. provided a special solution for the city by buying power at many times the normal rate from local industries that had power generation capability.

This solution works well for the industries as they make a ton of money selling power at exorbitant rates. The ordinary Pune citizen is happy as his ceiling fan doesn’t go dead for many hours a day. The thing that’s wrong with this approach is that the state is blowing a lot of tax payer money on problems that never should have arisen. Small and medium sized Pune industries also do not benefit from this scheme as they continue to face 2 days of powercuts.

Things go from bad to worse as you move away from the seat of power, to smaller towns and villages. As I said earlier “Power cuts vary inversely to the political importance of a place”. So the stability of government is based on ensuring that the entire state does not rise in protest and demand uninterrupted electric supply. As Pune and Mumbai (combined population ~ 2 crores) citizens are not facing power cuts, there are no protests in these cities. Even the cities that are getting less cuts than the neighboring villages are not standing shoulder to shoulder in protest with the villagers. Nobody has the time to protest if they themselves aren’t suffering.

Isn’t this “Divide and Rule”?. There are already several cases filed with ergard to power cuts. I hope that the state judiciary insists on implementation of equal power cuts in the entire state, in the tiny villages and in the big cities.

If it hurts just as bad in every city and village in Maharashtra I am sure we will soon get a lasting and state-wide solution for the power crisis. The state as well as central politicians will not take the risk of being thrown out of power by the millions in the big cities who are many times more empowered and closer to power than farmer X in remote village Y.

If we continue to have unequal power cuts, I don’t see a solution to the power crisis emerge anytime soon.