“78 lakh families hurt by power cut”; “Government departments, local bodies owe huge dues to TANGEDCO”

Around 4,000 industrialists, entrepreneurs and workers from micro, small and medium enterprises staged a protest near the TANGEDCO (Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation) office at Kappalur on the Madurai-Tirumangalam highway on Tuesday, demanding that uninterrupted power supply must be ensured and the spate of unscheduled power cuts must be put to an end.

Spearheaded by Kappalur Industrial Estate Manufacturers' Association, whose members downed their unit shutters for the day, several major trade and bodies from Madurai and the southern districts took part in the agitation. Besides raising slogans that the operations at small units were severely affected by the power cuts, the agitators questioned the rationale behind uninterrupted power supply being provided to multinational corporations and giving special treatment to Chennai which faced only an hour of load shedding every day while the rest of the State reeled from eight to ten hours of power cuts.

Tamil Nadu Small and Tiny Industries Association (TANSTIA) president K.R. Thangaraj said that the power crisis was jeopardising the livelihood of 78 lakh families. Besides calling for reviving the power holidays, adopted in the initial stages of the power crisis, he said that many government departments and local bodies owed huge dues to the TANGEDCO, which must be collected.

M.R. Rajendran, president of Kappalur Industrial Estate Manufacturers' Association, which has around 300 small units, employing 12,000 workers, said that the State government must treat all industries equally.

P.S. Sivaprasad, president of Madurai Spinners' Association, said that Southern India Mills' Association (SIMA) the apex body of textile mills, had pointed out that its members had 3,500 MW of captive power that could be utilised to tide over the shortage. The SIMA had volunteered to put the plants to use if the State government was willing to share a part of the cost.

“Privatise it”

TANSTIA vice-president KR. Gnanasambandan called for privatising the power sector so as to boost efficiency since TANGEDCO was neither able to supply power continuously nor able to even pay dues to its suppliers.

Tamil Nadu Chamber of Commerce and Industry president N. Jegatheesan, while supporting giving free power to various categories such as agriculture and huts, said that these connections must be monitored to ensure that TANGEDCO received adequate subsidy from the State government. He pointed out that of the Tamil Nadu's annual consumption of 70,342 million units, free power connections accounted for 25 per cent.

P. Sitaraman, founder-president and current executive committee member of Plastic Manufacturers' Association of Madurai (PLASMA), said that even though the crisis reared its head in 2007, no capacity addition in power generation had taken place in the last five years. Besides demanding a white paper on the crisis, he also wanted the State government to come out with a fixed timeframe to solve the power shortage issue.

A huge posse of police personnel was posted at the protest venue.