Power Policy Of Divide And Rule

Maharashtra State Power Policy Of Divide And RuleMaharashtra again suffers from acute electricity shortage and extended power cuts. While the govt. hasn’t shown much innovation or vision when it comes to power supply, it has been ingenious in managing the power cuts. It’s relying on good old “Divide and Rule”.

Considering that the entire state of Maharashtra is short on electricity, an outsider 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 Mumbai faces no power cuts. Justifications like the power company in Mumbai isn’t the same as the rest of Maharashtra are hollow considering that the sources of power are the same.

Pune, the second largest city in Maharashtra faced severe power cuts in previous years and that led to protests that rocked the government. So the government hastened to provide a special solution for Pune city by buying power at many times the normal rate from local industries that had power generation capability.

The situation starts deteriorating rapidly as you move away from the seat of power, to smaller towns and villages. Documents available on the MahaDiscom website show how the state is divided into categories and each category is further divided based on whether the primary use is for agriculture. The load shedding schedule and duration is based on these categories.

Why have these categories been created and why is the government distinguishing between cities and villages, between farmers and urbane professionals? Is it because it is felt that the power needs of the cities are more important than those of the villages?

I think the real reason for these distinctions is to ensure the survival of the government. It’s an attempt to ensure that the entire state does not protest in unison and demand uninterrupted electric supply. Because the 1 crore+ peoples in Pune and Mumbai are not facing power cuts, there are no protests in these cities. If it doesn’t hurt, who has the time to protest? Also if Town X is getting 3 hours of cuts while village Y right beside the town is facing 12 hours, you will never have residents of town X standing shoulder to shoulder with villagers from Y and protesting.

Mumbai is a particularly striking case of “Divide and Rule”. While politicians claim that Mumbai is an integral part of Maharashtra, the special treatment for Mumbai further distances Mumbai from the rest of Maharashtra. Mumbai thinks 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.

Isn’t this “Divide and Rule” against the basic tenets on which our country was formed? Is the premise that one man’s need for power is greater than another correct? Have we in the cities become oppressors of the less empowered masses in the villages?

Whenever I read history books that talk about exploitation of one segment of society by another, I wonder why so few people from the oppressing community opposed the actions of their government or leader. Few Englishmen opposed the British Raj, few Germans criticized Hitler at his peak. Many such examples can be easily found in Indian history. I think it’s not because they were all bad men, but because the situation suited them. They were comfortable with the status quo and turning a blind eye to unethical acts done by their own government seemed like their best and only option.

Similarly, today we in the cities are effectively oppressing the less empowered masses in the villages. The occasional absurd scheme like free power to farmers makes it seem like farmers are being pampered. However we all know that while urban India is booming, rural India is struggling. If urban India continues to be apathetic to the suffering of rural India caused by issues such as the power cuts, there’s sure to be long term resentment amongst those suffering. This resentment might fuel future uprisings or lead to a further increase in the already alarming rate of migration from the villages to the overburdened cities.

We need to understand that the state is being divided to ensure that it can be ruled. As residents of Maharashtra and not just Pune, we need to support implementation of equal power cuts in the entire state, in the tiny villages and in the big cities. The layman definition of “equal power cuts” would be equal hours of cut, irrespective of the megawatts consumed. A villager might not have electronic gadgets, either because he can’t afford them or because he finds them useless in a 12 hours of cut regime. However this fact cannot be used to conclude that power is not critical for villages and so longer cuts in villages are ok.

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 to 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 than a poor farmer in a remote village who by now might have accepted 12 hrs of cuts as just another of his many worries.

So here’s demanding power cuts in Pune and Mumbai. As per a document on the MahaDiscom website, Maharashtra consumes 17000 MWs of which Mumbai consumes 2000. So it’s very likely that even one hour of power cut in cities like Mumbai and Pune might light up an entire district for days. If we continue to have unequal power cuts, not only will the power crisis worsen but we will lose on both the power and the ethical front.

(Continued… Click here “Power Policy Of Divide And Rule” for the entire article). Published as part of my fortnightly column for the Maharashtra Herald)

  • Akshay Damle

    I really don’t agree with your “divide and rule” argument. The divisions are done based on power loss. If you go through the load shedding protocol documents available on the website, it is clear that the division is not based on economics. There are many “smaller” towns that are part of A or B groups.
    The real trouble was the lack of activity in terms of creating power plants in a phased manner and the high loss. There are areas in Maharashtra which has a loss of over 50%!

    Looking at the plans though (also available on the website), there is some urgency seen in creating new sources of power. There is a need to ensure that the utility works on that plan. Also privatization of the utility along with power tariff hikes is necessary if the cost of power has increased.

    Your view of power situation wasn’t based on accurate study of the power situation in Maharashtra but was a emotional knee jerk reaction to the situation. There are many questions to be asked about the grim power situation in Maharashtra/ india, but sadly these aren’t the ones.

  • Akshay Damle

    Also based on your argument about Mumbai getting special treatment, this is false without any basis. There is a legal binding that ensures that The government of maharashtra has an agreement with the private power companies in Mumbai (REL, Best) to ensure that any shortfall will be mitigated by MSEB. There is a ruling in MERC about the same. Also if you see one of the latest document, (TPC and REL for mumbai created 2000+MW of power and only 287MW from Maharashtra was tranferred to Mumbai). Also at the core of the reliable power supply in Mumbai is the “islanding” system that is implemented. The power theft / loss in Mumbai is the lowest in the country (under 10%) whereas in India it is between 30 – 45%. Power tariff in Mumbai is amongst the highest in the country. These are some of the reasons for the high reliability of power in Mumbai. Therefore arguing about step-motherly treatment between Mumbai and Maharashtra is flawed.

    I would have been pleased to see you argue about increase tariffs, implementing the “islanding” solution in other cities, reducing power thefts (T&C losses). These imo are the most important things to address.

    With regards to the ongoing power projects, documents listed on the MahaGenCo site (http://www.mahagenco.in/Ongoing-projects_english.pdf) & (http://www.mahagenco.in/Future-projects_english.pdf) suggest that there is some activity in ensuring “power for all”. What we need is a concerted effort from activists to ensure that these plans are accomplished within the given time framework.

    As far as agricultural area is concerned, several load management efforts such as feeder seperation have helped villages that have adopted them. There are many villages (some I’ve visited) where there is blatant theft of power that is being diverted to agricultural pumps. These illegal connections have been provided at the behest of powerful political parties.  All of this unaccounted power theft has caused considerable loss to the power utility. Why not highlight these facts in your “Divide and Rule” argument ?

    Finally there is a grim power situation in the country, and there is a need to augment power supply. Several cleantech power solutions as well as the Jaitapur Nuclear plant need to be green lighted. 

    My intention is not to dismiss what you say, all I am trying to say is that making an argument needs to use facts which I don’t think your post used.