RISING frequency of power outages has driven residents of some parts of Goa to protest. Outages disrupt normal life, as so many things depend on power; and they make the day very unpleasant especially when temperature is rising with the onset of summer. Relief from the heat using fans or AC remains elusive. Cooking gets affected. Computers cannot work. Phones cannot be charged. Clothes cannot be pressed. Geysers go cold in the bath. Disturbance in power supply comes in the way of smooth functioning of businesses. No wonder, the popular temperature has been rising against the electricity department’s failure to give uninterrupted power supply. A crowd of irate consumers resorted to vandalism in Quepem recently after the power supply was disrupted there for over 24 hours. Over 50 persons from Candolim and Calangute marched to the electricity department office at Calangute to protest frequent disruptions and demand smooth supply. They have given 15-day ultimatum to the department to resolve the issues relating to power outages, failing which they have threatened to take to the street.
Even though power supply has been irregular in various parts, it is seldom that people resort to protest. People living in the rural areas take power cuts in their stride and adjust their life accordingly. As uprooting of trees causes snapping of power cables and damage to poles in rural areas, power supply gets interrupted there for days altogether and people have learnt to live with the situation. It is mostly people from commercial and tourist places who protest when the interruptions cross limits and make life unbearable. In the past it was common for parts of the state or nearly the whole state to be plunged into darkness when power supply from the national grids was interrupted in transmission through other states. Such major failures have not been reported in the recent times, and that is an achievement of the power department. However, problems with local distribution continue to linger. The department accepts there are problems. Though hundreds of crores of rupees have been spent to upgrade the power distribution system in the state, frequent interruptions suggest that all the works that were done have not borne fruit and those works have to be revisited and rectified and besides, much more needs to be done. Among the reasons given for power outages are old supply lines and tripping of the supply by falling of tree branches. While this could be true in rural areas where there are overhead lines, interruptions in urban areas, including the capital city of Panaji, where underground cables have been laid are difficult to explain.
Given the importance of continuous power supply in facilitating economic activities and making the life of the citizen better, the government has undertaken the work of laying underground cables in major towns and coastal areas, which are major tourist attractions. Works with large outlay have been announced and in some places completed but despite such measures there is no end to power interruptions. It is necessary to find out the root causes behind the power failures and take necessary steps to ensure round-the-clock supply. As ageing power cables are a major problem in rural and semi-urban areas, the government should take immediate steps to replace them to minimise power outages. The government must provide adequate funds to the electricity department for such works as the replacement of ageing power cables in order to establish robust networks.
Unsatisfactory power supply was a key reason why there was immediate opposition to the electricity department’s decision to hike power tariff to make up for the shortfall in revenue. Even members of the cabinet opposed the decision, as a result of which the department had to modify it. Goa buys all of its power from outside. And the power it gets does not come cheap. Even the public sector organizations charge high rates for power. The state has to pay to the suppliers whether the power bought is distributed or not to the consumer. It should be the government’s priority therefore to remove all the problems that come in the way of smooth power distribution. That way the money paid from the public exchequer to the power suppliers can be fully utilized and the power department will also not be losing power owing to the halt to economic and commercial and domestic activities. If businesses and homes get uninterrupted and good quality power they would perhaps not mind paying higher rates for power consumption.