INDIA’S DARKEST HOURS
Former Union power minister wasted his six- year tenure. Irresponsible states have only compounded the power crisis.
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