IN­DIA’S DARK­EST HOURS

For­mer Union power min­is­ter wasted his six- year ten­ure. Ir­re­spon­si­ble states have only com­pounded the power cri­sis.

India Today - - SPECIAL REPORT - By Dhi­raj Nayyar

It can only hap­pen in UPA. Hours af­ter Union Power Min­is­ter Sushilku­mar Shinde presided over the most ex­ten­sive power cuts in In­dian his­tory, af­fect­ing an es­ti­mated 670 mil­lion peo­ple over 16 long hours of com­plete black­out in the last two days of July across north and east In­dia, he was pro­moted to the cov­eted job of Union home min­is­ter. The coun­try should be se­ri­ously con­cerned about Shinde’s el­e­va­tion. As home min­is­ter, he will have to an­tic­i­pate and pre­vent com­plex ter­ror­ist plots hatched against In­dia, based on what is at best patchy in­tel­li­gence in­for­ma­tion. As Union power min­is­ter, Shinde failed to an­tic­i­pate and pre­vent a mas­sive col­lapse of three of In­dia’s five na­tional power grids de­spite hav­ing all the de­fin­i­tive in­for­ma­tion about the im­pend­ing catas­tro­phe. Shinde was ei­ther asleep at the wheel, or dis­played ex­tremely poor judg­ment, even as the warn­ing lights flashed brightly in front of him.

Shinde, who has been power min­is­ter for over six years, knows that the coun­try suf­fers from power deficit at all times. By the Gov­ern­ment’s own es­ti­mates, pre­sented in the Eco­nomic Sur­vey in March 2012, the dif­fer­ence be­tween sup­ply and de­mand of elec­tric­ity is around 8 per cent, which rises to a lit­tle over 10 per cent in peak pe­riod. Shinde also knew that the de­mand for power goes up sharply if the mon­soon rains are de­fi­cient. That the mon­soon is se­ri­ously de­fi­cient in the months of June and July is a fact that the min­is­ter ought to have known. He would also know that the states of Pun­jab, Haryana and Ut­tar Pradesh, now be­ing blamed by the Cen­tre for the power cri­sis, draw more elec­tric­ity from the Cen­tral pool than usual if the mon­soon fails be­cause farm­ers need the power to run pumps to wa­ter their fields. Data from the Cen­tral Elec­tric­ity Reg­u­la­tory Com­mis­sion ( CERC) for the month of July shows that all three states, along with Ra­jasthan, had been over- draw­ing power be­yond their al­lo­cated quo­tas from mid- July, at least two weeks be­fore the grid col­lapsed.

There was plenty of time to dis­ci­pline the erring states. But Shinde’s power min­istry did lit­tle, other than is­sue a let­ter of warn­ing on July 12. Shinde was blasé when asked for an ex­pla­na­tion as he demit­ted of­fice. “I have briefed PMO. In US, light ( elec­tric­ity) does not come for four days, here we

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